I dedicate this post to my dad, one of the first rock gods.
So I am starting to work on a book for adults. I guess they’re called novels. I keep calling it an “adult novel,” (so as to somehow distinguish it from my young adult work) which leads folks to believe that I am out to write the next 50 Shades of Gray. Maybe I should just do that.
Anyhow, for this new book, I will attempt to write some chapters in the voice of a man, that is, I will attempt to create a fictional male character. I find this daunting and exciting! I have never done such a thing before. Remember, I started out as a poet and I write a lot of autobiographical stuff and well, it has really never occurred to me or even seemed necessary for me to try to write a man. Aren’t there enough men out there already who won’t shut the hell up? (Oops, that last sentence just slipped out). Why should I pretend to be a man and create yet another one of those guys? But seriously, I like the idea of a woman writing in a man’s voice, and I’m told that this is what the fiction writers do–they create characters that are not them. Shocking.
Anywho, in preparation for making this guy, who is a middle-aged musician, and loosely based on someone I used to know, I am reading some rock and roll autobiographies. I began with Keith Richard’s Life and pretty much devoured it. Everyone loves this book, but now I see why. First of all, there is no one out there like Keith Richards. He has done stuff (drugs, women, music, court appearances, villas, speedboats, Mick, Anita, side bands,) that most of us will never even get a chance to think about. Also, most of these things and people should have killed him. He should be dead, about 40 times over, but he’s not. He’s still rocking out and looking terrible and feeling pretty awesome about it.
Now I am pretty deep into Scar Tissue by Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, recommended to me by my student, Katie. I’ve never been a Chili Peppers fan, although I’ve never not liked them. Like most red-blooded women, I used to be delighted when the video for “Give it Away” came on the MTV. I found them to be kind of handsome, but a little too cool for me. I suppose I rejected them because they seemed too athletic–that’s weird, I know, but I’ve always been afraid of jocks, and I always thought they were jocks disguised as freaks. Anyway, this is an awesome book too, and I was wrong. Kiedis is a lot more graphic than Richards about sex and his drug addiction, which I appreciate. I mean, I actually need to know, how many unsolicited blow jobs a lead singer can get in one night and I am really curious about the ins and outs of scoring speedballs and China White on the streets of L.A.
So, since you know, I like to make lists, here are a couple of things that the rock gods are teaching me:
1. Collaboration/being in a band is a totally fraught experience. The shifting alliances, the petty grievances, the fights for creative control–all of that, next the incredible rush of being famous and making hit records and touring and having totally devoted fans. I don’t know what to say, other than it’s far more complicated than I imagined.
2. As I parent I am doing just fine. I know that these books are not parenting manuals, but they are way more fun to read than parenting books and I think they are helping me to chill out about being a mom, and sometimes I need that. Keith Richard’s first son Marlon went on tour with him for a year with only one pair of pants and one pair of shoes!! Marlon, by the way, for a while, was the only one who was allowed to wake his dad from his heroin-induced sleep because Richards used to keep a loaded gun under his pillow!!!! Kiedis’s dad, Blackie, gave him his first joint when he was 11! They smoked it together!! He also arranged for his own girlfriend to provide young Anthony with his first sexual experience!!!! I’m not saying these are my models, but hey, it does give one some perspective.
3. Singularity of vision. I’m terrible at this. I try to do too many things. I spread myself too thin. I work in too many genres. For example, I should be working on my novel, but instead I’m writing this blog post. These guys only do one thing, all the time, ever. I don’t think that entirely realistic for me, but it’s a good reminder to stay focused, to keep writing, no matter what. Keith Richard’s descriptions of how he used heroin, mainly as a method to keep himself in the studio for days on end, is fascinating and troubling. I’m curious about the kind of mind/body that will take a drug like that and actually make it productive.
Slash by Slash (how can this be bad?)
The Dirt: Confessions of the World’s Most Notorious Rock Band by Motley Crue (recommended by my friend Smoota, amazing band leader, trombonist, and Williamsburg’s own rock god!)
Lemme know if you have any rock gods or goddesses reads I should check out.