This is a memoir by Sonic Youth co-founder Kim Gordon. I’ve never been super familiar or super into Sonic Youth, but I do have a handful of their albums and I’ve listened to a few of them more than others and really enjoy individual songs more than the whole things. But they’ve always been around in my life, or more or less. Their first album came out in 1983, I think, and I was born in 1981. But like a lot of people I connect them with the Homerpalooza episode of The Simpsons, which gives them a funny playful air their music really doesn’t have that much of. It’s also interesting because for a band so connected to late 80s and early 90s indie rock, they’re older than they seem they should. Kim Gordon is 65 now, which is certainly not old, but old in connection with a post-punk band.
She starts the memoir off with Sonic Youth’s final concert. It’s a scene permeated with distrust and sourness from the slow breakdown of her marriage with the other co-founder Thurston Moore. We find out later in the memoir the details of this break up, but it’s apparent from the early scenes that he’s started a relationship with another (younger) woman, created distance, and this had led to the break up of both the marriage and the band.
The memoir then goes back to her childhood in southern California and her relationship with her academic parents (good) and her (undiagnosed schizophrenic) brother (bad). She then goes on to trace her interest in music, in critiquing broader cultural trends of the 60s and 70s, her moving to New York, her meeting Thurston Moore and forming the band. The last half of the book is focused on the various time periods with the band, side projects, relationships with other people in music, and then her role as a mother and the break up of her marriage.
This was also an audiobook, which Gordon reads — and is the second book she’s read that I’ve listened to, as she read a Jo Nesbo novel not long after this.
The memoir’s strength, I think rely, on your familiarity and interest with the time period she’s narrating. The writing is good and the reading is good, but the issue here is the issue with a lot of memoirs written by celebrities and musicians: there’s no critical eye as to what to include and what not to include. This is a “tell all” in the sense that she covers the whole scope of her life and career and not a great memoir in the sense of selection and curation of a part of a life. That doesn’t make it bad, only limited.