“Songs’re weird; they tell the future and they tell the past, but they can’t seem to tell the difference.”
Kristin Hersh, a founding member of Throwing Muses, kept a diary during her 18th year and holy cow, a lot happened. This book isn’t just that diary, though. Nearly thirty years later, she discovers the journal and reads it. And while it was difficult to revisit that time in her life, she got the idea to use that material to tell the story of one of the most transformative times in her life.
Interspersed with song lyrics and actual diary entries, we come to know Kristin as a restless young woman and song writer for her band, who goes to university in Rhode Island, studies with her good friend Betty Hutton (seriously, that one!) and doesn’t want a permanent address. There are some terrific passages where she talks about her song writing process, which has become a heightened almost desperate thing after a hit and run accident left her with a double concussion. When she tells Betty that her dream is to live in a van, it gets a less that enthusiastic reception. She goes on to clarify that she means her band will have the van and they will travel the country and “play every night”. This sounds slightly better but it is actually a pretty telling anecdote. You see, after a particularly distressing period, she is diagnosed with bi-polar disorder. She responds well to the “soothers”, those mental health care professionals she works with and begins the process of finding the correct medicinal cocktail to manage her disease. There is some angst as she deals with the lithium tremors, which makes playing the guitar nearly impossible, and the logy slowed-down mind that makes everyday life easier but interferes with her actual songwriting process.
But she perseveres. And so does her band and soon they are moving to Boston to concentrate on the band full time, which leads to a better demo and eventually an opportunity to record an actual album. Then, as if things aren’t complicated enough, as they are getting ready to go into the studio, she discovers she is pregnant. How will this affect her health, her band and her life?
I was bowled over by this engaging and absorbing book. I had limited knowledge of the band but it was still interesting to get a peek into her process and see how certain song lyrics came from her life experiences. She writes movingly about coming to terms with her diagnosis and even more so about preparing to bring her son into the world. Recommended.