I read Girl in a Band by Kim Gordon on the heals of reading Carrie Brownstein’s Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl and Patti Smith’s Just Kids a few years earlier. Gordon’s book pales in comparison to Brownstein, who is a genius–capable of exposing those real and unflattering (and flattering!) human emotions and experiences by showing instead of telling, and to Smith, who’s skill with language has always been a huge part of her success as a musician and artist. It makes sense that Smith and Brownstein would both write books that are both informative to fans, but that also hold up as literary works as well. Gordon’s book doesn’t do that.
Gordon portrays herself as a frustrated artist, and she accurately conveys that frustration in her lifelong relationship with visual art and music. At many times, she says she felt vulnerable, but the reader doesn’t see or feel the vulnerability. Sometimes Gordon seems to confuse vulnerability with victimhood, which also comes off as somewhat confused.
Here’s what I think: I think she is tough, and numb, and this is part of her personality, but it’s also exacerbated by her heartbreak and divorce from Thurston Moore. The pain is still too fresh for her to have any useful insight. One imagines that her heartache still weighs her every day, and without the clarity of some of that pain having lifted, she is not yet in a position to write about her experience in a useful way. She comes off as guarded–the opposite of vulnerable. She pulls back, and the reader pulls back too.
If you are a fan of Sonic Youth, it’s worth reading for the history. If you are a fan of that musical movement, it serves up a fine history. Otherwise, this is one you can skip. If she does this again in about a decade, I’d give the new one a read. Perhaps by then she’ll have deeper insight and also remind us what any of this had to do with being human in the first place.