Girl in a Band by Kim Gordon

Girl in a Band

Kim Gordon, founding member of Sonic Youth, fashion icon, and role model for a generation of women, now tells her story—a memoir of life as an artist, of music, marriage, motherhood, independence, and as one of the first women of rock and roll, written with the lyricism and haunting beauty of Patti Smith's Just Kids.Often described as aloof, Kim Gordon opens up as never be...

Title:Girl in a Band
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Edition Language:English

Girl in a Band Reviews

  • Lauren

    Interesting and at times even moving, but mostly, there is a distance there and whether or not it's because there are places she doesn't want to go or doesn't care to take you, I'm not sure. There is something very unresolved about it as a memoir but again, that's ok - she's in the middle of a major life change and you can feel it.

    Not that different from how I feel about Sonic Youth, a band I liked and even admired, but never felt a heart connection to.

    All that said, I still enjoyed reading it

    Interesting and at times even moving, but mostly, there is a distance there and whether or not it's because there are places she doesn't want to go or doesn't care to take you, I'm not sure. There is something very unresolved about it as a memoir but again, that's ok - she's in the middle of a major life change and you can feel it.

    Not that different from how I feel about Sonic Youth, a band I liked and even admired, but never felt a heart connection to.

    All that said, I still enjoyed reading it and rooting for her - a woman at the midpoint of her life, thinking about the choices she was going to make. I loved her descriptions too - of what it was like to be on stage and play music.

    I guess everyone has a New York that they love reading about and this had mine: Canal Jeans, Pearl Paint, Unique, Veselka's,the Mudd Club.

  • Ettore Pasquini

    This book gave me a different view not just on Kim Gordon herself, but also on women's rights and the role of visual arts post-1960s.

    I listened to the audio book, main reason being that she is reading it herself. It was my first audiobook, so I don’t have anything to compare it to, but I have to say that her "performance" adds something to this memoir. Even if a few times her reading stutters, in my opinion this makes the experience all the more intimate. The level of intimacy here is pretty uni

    This book gave me a different view not just on Kim Gordon herself, but also on women's rights and the role of visual arts post-1960s.

    I listened to the audio book, main reason being that she is reading it herself. It was my first audiobook, so I don’t have anything to compare it to, but I have to say that her "performance" adds something to this memoir. Even if a few times her reading stutters, in my opinion this makes the experience all the more intimate. The level of intimacy here is pretty unique, in fact: warm, sometimes heartbreaking, but never obnoxious or confessional. When the book ended I felt a void, a sadness. “Oh right, I can’t listen to Kim Gordon anymore! I finished the book…”

    Her break-up with Thurston Moore is discussed quite a bit: after 25+ years together, how can it not be. I found her account disarmingly honest. You can feel the pain in her words, in her voice. It’s intense. I kept asking myself, why is she telling me all these details about her relationship? But that's exactly the point: why is she telling

    . The kind of intimacy that I was talking about earlier makes all the difference in the world. I think few women can be this open and honest, and certainly no man can ever even

    to be this open and honest.

    Women’s rights are also at the forefront. So much that it challenged me: do I treat women differently, without even realizing it? Am I inconsiderate, or power-hungry, especially toward women? I certainly hope not, but still, that's the kind of questions this book made me think at. It made me reconsider some old assumptions.

    The stories. Oh, I don't even know where to start. They’re just great:

    [

    ]

    I can’t separate the intensity and closeness of

    , that i had already seen, from the validation of reading about it, confirming something unspoken that however I already knew.

    The parts where she spoke about confidence almost brought me to tears. "I also had no confidence, really. [...] and without confidence it doesn't matter what you're wearing" [ch. 24] I don’t want to go into that, though.

    Perhaps the most surprising part of this book is her involvement in visual arts. I didn’t know she was a visual artist first before being a musician. For example, fashion details emerge throughout the book and at first that surprised me. Mainly because of the narrow way I was thinking about her. But then it all made sense. Of course that’s interesting to a visual artist! I think her attention to visual details — in record covers, films, clothing — added layers of meaning to her work as a musician and helped define a style that’s still influential today. The way she talks about art, her own and others, (re)opened my eyes about performance, confidence and significance. It’s so easy to forget the importance of language and semiotics, but every symbol and sign is something at your disposal, and an artist knows how to utilize them. Kim Gordon certainly does.

    I could go on but I’ll stop. I’ll say that Kim Gordon's voice is something that makes life worth living. It elevates you. Or at least it elevated me.

  • Lynx

    Kim Gordon's life has certainly taken her to fascinating places. Growing up in the sixties, traveling, infiltrating the NYC art scene, Sonic Youth's formation and success, starting her own fashion line, producing others music and films, becoming an artist in her own right and all while being female and a mother, something ignorant journalists never fail to ask her about. Theres certainly never a dull moment in this book. Kim opens up about all these things as well as her personal relationships,

    Kim Gordon's life has certainly taken her to fascinating places. Growing up in the sixties, traveling, infiltrating the NYC art scene, Sonic Youth's formation and success, starting her own fashion line, producing others music and films, becoming an artist in her own right and all while being female and a mother, something ignorant journalists never fail to ask her about. Theres certainly never a dull moment in this book. Kim opens up about all these things as well as her personal relationships, growing up with a schizophrenic older brother and her 30 year relationship with Thurston Moore.

    Kim is very articulate and honest while discussing her personal life, including the painful details of Thurston's infidelities which led to their divorce. At times I could sense the pain and anger in her words, clearly not completely over the betrayal just yet. However there were other moments in the book that had me cringing, the attitude in her words while writing about her place in the scene, or certain people made her come off as snobbish and very self-important. I expected some (deservedly) negative comments about Courtney Love thrown in, she did after all work in studio and tour with her but for instance writing comments about how scarred Love's nose was and how she's clearly had more then one nose job as well as throwing in an "ewww" at the idea of her liking Billy Corgan (he's "in no way punk rock"), made her come off as a high school mean girl as opposed to a 61 year old adult.

    While slightly disappointed in what read at times as though Kim has come to believe her own hype I still did very much enjoy the book and recommend it to Sonic Youth/feminists/90's nostalgics like myself!

    Thank for Edelweiss for this review copy.

  • Sgossard

    I thought (just like you) that Kim was the coolest ever in the hippest band ever. If you want to keep thinking that, don't ever read this book.

    . If you're already set on reading it anyway or got it as a gift or pre-ordered it just like me, at least let me help you a bit.

    Out of the 288 pages in this book, around 150 are about how growing up was for her, how her brother emotionally abused and traumatised he

    I thought (just like you) that Kim was the coolest ever in the hippest band ever. If you want to keep thinking that, don't ever read this book.

    . If you're already set on reading it anyway or got it as a gift or pre-ordered it just like me, at least let me help you a bit.

    Out of the 288 pages in this book, around 150 are about how growing up was for her, how her brother emotionally abused and traumatised her, who she was dating at the moment and lots and lots of name dropping. Her musings on music and art are nice, I enjoyed them, wish there had been more of those, chapter 51 was great. Then you get just a little bit of what was going on with Sonic Youth at the moment (about 60 pages). If you already have the book, these are the chapters with names of their records or songs, those are cool, read those. Then stop.

    If anything, I think at least she's being honest. That makes me feel sorry for her. That's why I just didn't drop this book, some of her integrity does come through in what she's writing.

    So Thurston cheated on you with Eva Prinz. That sucks. Writing a book just for the sake of calling him a coward publicly sucks too. This could have been a long blog post or an article on a magazine or some such, but it certainly wasn't worth a book. Honestly, we didn't need to know the dirty, painful details. It's not just really really ordinary, it's also embarrassing to read. You could have saved us all the trouble of reading that part by just linking to this

    . Maybe you wrote this book following your therapist's suggestions, I don't know, maybe you were looking for closure. And yeah, you are a feminist. That's great. Do you need to remind us about it on every. Single. Page?

    Lana del Rey should "off herself"? Really? She still hasn't written an entire book on how bitter she is. I hope and trust you will eventually find peace and happiness in the people and things you still have close to you.

    A big SY fan.

  • Michelle

    Didn't like this quite as much as I thought I would. Some weird tone problems, too much name-dropping (as opposed to more in-depth reflection), some randomly dropped-in feminist sloganeering that felt artificial, and holy moly, some really questionable decisions about the framing of the breakup of her marriage and band. I'm still totally Team Kim, but dang, some of it was really, really cringe-inducing.

  • Jim

    I think its telling that after spending 270 pages with the author I don't really have a sense of her as an artist, musician, or a person. I know a lot more about her projects and things that happened to her, but at the end of the book she remains a cipher. For someone who has accomplished so much the book feels thin, understandably disjointed, yet lacking in depth. It's also oddly humorless, but as many have remarked, the memoir begins and ends with her break-up with Thurston Moore and it colors

    I think its telling that after spending 270 pages with the author I don't really have a sense of her as an artist, musician, or a person. I know a lot more about her projects and things that happened to her, but at the end of the book she remains a cipher. For someone who has accomplished so much the book feels thin, understandably disjointed, yet lacking in depth. It's also oddly humorless, but as many have remarked, the memoir begins and ends with her break-up with Thurston Moore and it colors the project in its sad tones. While Gordon is generous in her praise of Moore's artistry, musicianship and abilities as a father, one can't help but wonder what this book would be like if she'd let a bit more water flow under the bridge. The meat of the book describes her relationships with various artists and the circumstances under which Sonic Youth's records were produced. I loved learning about her friendship with the L.A. artist Mike Kelley and how she wrote an article for Artforum about him and Raymond Pettibon. She was also inspired by Black Flag house show in Hermosa Beach. This is really engaging stuff, I just wish there was more of it.

  • Jane Settles cigarran

    A very fast read and quite illuminating though not for the reasons one might expect. I was pretty dismayed at how Kim's elitism and namedropping goes hand in hand with her playing punk rock contests and speaking really harshly about other women. It's one thing to say Courtney Love is crazy but quite another to complain just chapters before, how sexist it was to call a brash woman "crazy". It's one thing to admit to dating older, influential, stifling men as a young women but quite another to say

    A very fast read and quite illuminating though not for the reasons one might expect. I was pretty dismayed at how Kim's elitism and namedropping goes hand in hand with her playing punk rock contests and speaking really harshly about other women. It's one thing to say Courtney Love is crazy but quite another to complain just chapters before, how sexist it was to call a brash woman "crazy". It's one thing to admit to dating older, influential, stifling men as a young women but quite another to say in the next breath that people like Lana Del Ray don't know what feminisim is and should stop dating old gross men? Don't even get me started on how she talks about the other woman (i'm sure just one of many she knows of) that Thurston left her for. That's when it stopped being entertaining and just became plain sad. I feel for her...I hope she finds a new, less co-dependent direction in her golden years. She could be a great asset to the rock/female world but she's not taken that title on with very much intelligence or class thus far.

    It's truly fascinating to me how unaware she is of how hypocritical she is...and how inadvertently anti-woman she is. She mentions in jest that she might be a sociopath. She might be on to something....

    That said, fun read, I recommend reading it while playing a drinking game where you take a shot each time she contradicts her own philosophies.

    -jane

  • Anhelo

    I was disappointed by this book for several reasons. Call them personal if you may. I didn't think it was healthy to vent so much about Thurston Moore's affairs; Kim actually sounded desperate for validation, and a book was not the place to do it, in my personal opinion. I agree with some other reviewers who suggested that telling a story of a couple falling in and out of love seemed to make more sense, rather than labeling as a "middle age male crisis" to center the traitor as the main characte

    I was disappointed by this book for several reasons. Call them personal if you may. I didn't think it was healthy to vent so much about Thurston Moore's affairs; Kim actually sounded desperate for validation, and a book was not the place to do it, in my personal opinion. I agree with some other reviewers who suggested that telling a story of a couple falling in and out of love seemed to make more sense, rather than labeling as a "middle age male crisis" to center the traitor as the main character (or villain).

    Like it's been reviewed before, there is an absurd amount of name dropping, but guess what? it's mostly men. I was surprised by how many male names appear in this book, versus mentions of female artists. Then, there is a feeling of harshness towards those women who seemed sexually promiscuous and didn't exactly behave as comrades to Gordon.

    In a few instances where the author gave her opinion (shit talked) about other artists, the author seemed to project herself a bit. For example, when she mentions that the Smashing Pumpkins were "too pretentious, too image-conscious", I couldn't help but to think of how much effort she put into being different, and how self conscious she was with her own image, but somehow that doesn't make her image-conscious herself.

    Details I was somewhat turned off by: the use of the word "trannies", and the statement that "dripping breast milk during a video shot is not very rock", both seemed to be told in a pejorative light. Rock = cool. Motherhood = not. Call me sensitive.

    As a fan, I suppose I never realized how privileged she must have been growing up, if she never thought as herself as different for being female in a male dominated scene. Expect a big load of white feminism from this book.

  • El

    Last night I came across a journal I kept in late 1997 and early 1998, a journal I completely had forgotten about, but it seemed fitting to come across it now since reading this book has taken me back to around that period when I was listening to a lot of Sonic Youth. It was like being 19, 20 again and feeling like music was actually accomplishing something. (All that really meant was I was listening to music that affected me in some way, regardless of what it was doing to the rest of the listen

    Last night I came across a journal I kept in late 1997 and early 1998, a journal I completely had forgotten about, but it seemed fitting to come across it now since reading this book has taken me back to around that period when I was listening to a lot of Sonic Youth. It was like being 19, 20 again and feeling like music was actually accomplishing something. (All that really meant was I was listening to music that affected me in some way, regardless of what it was doing to the rest of the listeners.)

    I have long been a fan of Kim Gordon's especially. I'm not going to be all Team Kim or Team Thurston because that's ridiculous - they created music together and it's pretty awesome to listen to still, but she was more than just a "girl in a band", duh, which is what this memoir is really about.

    Before we get anywhere near the Sonic Youth years, Gordon talks about growing up on the west coast and her troubled relationship with her older brother. Their relationship caused Gordon to control her reactions and behaviors which, in later years, has often been viewed as her being aloof or cold or indifferent. This is something I can relate to quite a bit, actually. Not the schizophrenic brother part, I mean, but being judged for my exterior because of the expectations of others. My reasons for it may have been different from Gordon's, but the end result is familiar to me.

    Gordon also talks about living in New York in the 80s and 90s, and this, I think, is where a lot of readers have difficulty with the book. Gordon talks a lot about the artists and musicians she encountered during this time, and it can come across as being really name-droppy. But I also think that was the environment. She was in New York during a very specific time in music history, so she encountered a lot of different people, many of whom were just as important to that history as Sonic Youth was. She worked with many of them in a variety of ways, collaborated with them, learned from them, and grew with them. She was older than a lot of women in the scene and, from what I've read elsewhere, sort of been a mentor to many of them, though it's evident from reading this book that those relationships were equally important to Gordon like Chloe Sevigny, Kathleen Hanna, Sofia Coppola, Kim Deal.

    Some of the reviews I've read about this book are interesting in that many readers are commenting on and attacking Gordon for her distaste for Lana Del Rey and Courtney Love specifically, as though Gordon sharing her thoughts on them or her experiences with Love make Gordon less of a feminist than she claims to be. I find that hard to agree with. In any case, I haven't seen one review yet where anyone has shown any dissatisfaction for the comments Gordon made about Billy Corgan. She is also not a fan of Corgan on a personal level, but that seems to be okay for readers which I find surprising and interesting. It also makes me wonder if these same readers have read a lot of these sorts of musical memoirs - a lot of artists are pretty catty in the memoirs. I saw the same thing in Dean Wareham's

    with his numerous complaints about radio play in general, or the Pixies, or other groups that Galaxie 500 was getting lumped in with at the time.

    It's a catty world, people.

    But with all the cattiness, there were some good moments with her peers as well. I got to see a different perspective on Kurt Cobain based on Gordon's friendship to him, for example. Baby Frances Bean and baby Coco got together for a while and did whatever it is babies do, which is not a side of these musicians I've really gotten to hear about. And while there isn't much detail about it, it's there, period.

    There is a distance in Gordon's writing that I have also seen other reviewers complain about. I don't disagree with them that it exists, but I think I also understand it. I do wish it had been a more exciting read, but I enjoyed revisiting specifically the 90s with her.

    Above all, what's especially interesting is the way Gordon talks about but doesn't necessarily dwell on how the media would talk to women in music. At one point journalists were asking Gordon what it was like to be a "girl in a band", while they were unlikely asking Thurston, Ranaldo, or any other band member what it was like to be a "boy in a band". Later, after she had had Coco, journalists started to ask her what it was like to be a mother while on tour. In both instances journalists were using her gender against her, focusing on her femininity rather than her artistic ability. I think she would have wanted to discuss that in more detail, or maybe she just threw those anecdotes out there for her readers to make of it what they will. I just wonder how many readers really picked up on that. The thing is that sort of sexism still happens - I saw an interview a while back with Jennifer Garner. She had just had like two movies come out that year, and all the person interviewing her wanted to talk about was her husband, Ben Affleck's, success in the movie

    . Garner handled it all very graciously, because that's the sort of lady she is, but the point was pretty obvious - you are the wife, and the mother, and while you may be doing the same thing your husband is doing, let's actually just talk about your husband and your thoughts on his success.

    My point is that very little has changed in this regard in the past 20+ years, obviously.

    While I appreciate Gordon as a musician and an artist, I have to admit that her writing itself leaves a bit to be desired. I found her book interesting, but can understand how someone who is not into her or Sonic Youth might find it tedious and cold. If you're interested in understanding their music and lyrics a bit more, then there's some of that here for you as well.

    I agree with my friend

    review where he said he felt the whole Thurston Moore divorce thing read as being a bit forced, like it was something maybe Gordon herself didn't want to talk about it but either felt pressure from her publisher, editor, or the public. Other reviews, again, have it completely wrong and just want to call Gordon a bitter and scorned woman which is pretty common anytime a woman voices her pain in a relationship. The point is no one knows all of what happened between them - this is merely her own story, and if she is hurt and it comes across as bitter, so be it. Your opinion on her feelings as she presented them says more about you than it does about her.

    That all being said, now let's all go back to a

    before Mommy and Daddy broke up. Stars Hollow makes everything better.

  • Darwin8u

    The Freedom Conferred by Masks

    The Freedom Conferred by Masks

    -- Kim Gordon, 'Girl in a Band'

    I normally don't read artist, musician, or author memoirs. Just not something I have done much. No real biblioideology behind it, just not my thing. Recently, however, I picked up Patti Smith's

    and loved it, so I thought I should read another rock memoir written by a woman I loved growing up. Different kick ass singer, different kick ass period. In some ways Patti Smith and Kim Deal are very different, but in other ways both women's memoirs are similar and work for similar reasons. They are both raw, emotional, authentic (as much as a memoir is ever really authentic), and interesting. Boring these women were not. So, here is my take, the good, bad, and ugly --

    First

    : Kim Gordon has a narrative talent. Her prose reaches moments of beauty and poignance that are both delicate and strong. While I have always loved Sonic Youth, and known about them in a peripheral way, I never focused too long or too hard on the rock opera that is modern rock. I knew where their music fit in, but didn't care too much about where they fit in. it was nice to be able to place people and places around some of these rock heroes. Danny Elfman, Kurt Cobain, J. Mascis, Henry Rollins, Kim Deal, Beck, etc. I knew each of these musicians and their music, but didn't know how they all intersected with Kim and Thurston. Kim (like Patti Smith) also beautifully describes not just the NY music scene (CBGB, Noise Fest, Hurrah, the Mudd Club), but also the art scene too. I love how absolutely integrated rock was with the art scene (again think Patti Smith, David Byrne, etc) in NY in the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s.

    Next,

    : not much. Sometimes when Kim switches from a traditional beginning, middle, end narrative and inserts about 1/2 into the book a set of chapters that are just additional pieces on albums and songs and her thoughts from the time with Sonic Youth, it all seems a bit neat and experimental; all messing with the format. However, by the end I just thought it was a way to help get past the middle hump. It seemed a bit out of place and get like the publisher asked for the book to be 270+ pages and not 200 pages, so Kim found an expedient way to fill up 70+ additional pages.

    And yes too,

    : The divorce of course. Ugh. There is nothing sadder than seeing your idols fall, your heroes transgress, and marriages fail apart. It is personal and vicious and you can tell by Kim's details that it all still stings. Perhaps, getting it all out there for her was a form of therapy. But ouch! I don't feel bad for Thurston, but ugh.


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