Funny, quirky coming-of-age story from a unique musical artist.
For her first work of nonfiction, Hersh (Toby Snax, 2007), best known as founder and principal songwriter of art-rock band Throwing Muses, revisited the journal she kept from the winter of 1985 through the spring of 1986, when her band made the critical decision to leave provincial Rhode Island and join Boston’s thriving music scene. It was a monumental year for Hersh personally, as well. At 18, she was a bit of an oddball. Hit by a car some years before, she started hearing—and seeing—music that she felt compelled to get out of her head and into the world. Other eccentricities may have preceded the accident: her dislike of being indoors, her refusal to wear glasses or lenses during shows so as not to make eye contact with her audiences, her need to swim in any available pool, with or without the permission of the owner. In the summer of 1985, Hersh suffered a frightening breakdown and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Refreshingly, though the book is not the kind of memoir that lingers in angst, perhaps because Hersh prefers to keep her delightfully childlike focus outward. Drawn to other outsiders, she had become close friends with one of her college-professor father’s favorite students, the former movie star Betty Hutton, who, then in her 60s, had become a devout Catholic and had nominally renounced her Hollywood past. One of the narrative’s many charms is Hersh’s apparently effortless, razor-sharp portraiture of the diverse characters in her life: Hutton; her former-hippie parents; her bandmates; a parade of music journalists, an Indian psychiatrist (Dr. Seven Syllables, she names him) who helped her navigate her illness without medication upon learning she was pregnant by an unnamed lover; the British record-label owner and his producer who took great pains to get her genius on tape.
A thoroughly engrossing work by an original voice—hopefully the first of many.