First, Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl by Carrie Brownstein made me incredibly nostalgic for my graduate school in creative writing at Bellingham, Washington. It made me grateful for my best friend, whom I met there. It made me grateful for the training I received there. It made me grateful to be part of the contagious creative energy of that place.
Sleater-Kinney is a group composed of women. With some privilege. Who were highly intellectual. And well-educated. They understood the conversation, their conversation, the conversation that was happened around them, the way everyone was getting it wrong, or right. Beyond all that, they were a band making good music, and I think that’s an important takeaway from the book, which is worth owning, by the way (and I don’t say this lightly as someone who hates “things” and loves the library).
There are some lovely lines, some deeply insightful lines. I loved the descriptions of fanzines and the embarrassingly long letter writing of yesteryear–something that generations with access to the internet will never understand. And there were great vocab words (metonym, diffidence, jocose, internecine, lugubrious, interstices, peripatetic)! The book was informational. It was moody. The end is triumphant, while simultaneously sucking the air out of the room because that is life no matter now stupidly depressed or optimistic we are in our tender little human brains.
I can’t tell you how important it is for me to look to female artists, who aren’t trying to be particularly female, nor artist, nor political, but are all of these things and end up providing a path, an option, an expression that is contrary to the rest of it–the blinding, crushing, deafening roaring messages. The dominant voice is so overpowering that you feel all alone thinking it’s wrong, they’re wrong. You search desperately for some whispered message, some quiet, lovely beat, an undertow more powerful than the surface waves, a person across the way who is looking at you and nodding her head to the same lovely beat.
Carrie Brownstein and Sleater-Kinney–they’re looking back and me and they’re nodding.
Here are a few lines from the book that I loved:
- “[T]o be a fan is to know that loving trumps being beloved” (3).
- “It is difficult to express how profound it is to have your experience broadcast back to you for the first time, how shocking it feels to be acknowledged, as if your own sense of realness had only existed before as a concept” (55).
- “Books grounded me, helped me feel less alone” (115).
- “A nomadic life fosters inconsistencies and contradictions within you, a vacillation between loneliness and needing desperately to be left alone” (150).
- On the difficulty of relationships: “When do you ever get to be alone? To think, to read, to reflect, to not have to be “on,” to do nothing to just…be” (152).
- I feel this in regards to teaching: “An audience doesn’t want female distance, they want female openness and accessibility, familiarity that validates femaleness” (166).
- “In the end, all I could manage was the kind of shoulder dance moms do when they make shrimp scampi in the kitchen while drinking white wine and listening to Bruce Hornsby” (175).
- “If you’re ever wondering how sad I was…you would know by the fact that I won the Oregon Humane Society Volunteer Award in 2006” (226). – I have my own similar life markers that look like success, but are mostly a reflection of a deeply sad time in my life.
- “If the fake crow were looking down on us, he would see a woman in her thirties, living alone, jobless and aimless, with animals to fill the space and to patch the holes” (228). – It’s taken herculean strength for me not to patch the holes with innocent mammals.