A short book about trying, and failing, to find something new to write about Madonna.
As a singer/songwriter–turned-writer, journalist and novelist (Note to Self, 2013, etc.) Simone recognizes both similarities and differences between her experience and Madonna’s. Trying to get a handle on her story, she begins at the beginning, traveling to Madonna’s birthplace of Bay City, Michigan, a city that seems to have an ambivalent relationship with her fame. Though the predictable trajectory would leave the launching pad of Michigan for the fame the artist found in Manhattan, where the author’s ambitions also took her, this book is all but stillborn in Bay City. From the start, she writes, “the logistics of writing a new book about Madonna, I soon discovered, were crushing,” with so much already out there, “and the truth was—I was failing.” There is some provocative analysis here, about how Madonna was both a woman of “ruthless ambition” and omnivorous sexuality, which is different than being someone who exploited her sexuality to get ahead (though perhaps she did that as well). There is a discussion about how stunning she was as a dancer before she became more professionally aerobicized and how the author felt that Sinéad O’Connor was the more epochal artist than Madonna before realizing that “Madonna started out as a freak and a loser, not so different from the flannelled freaks and losers I hailed as saviors.” At a point where Simone says she decided to give up and return her advance, the author circles back to Bay City, where she learned more about Question Mark and the Mysterians—who also originated there—than readers will learn about Madonna. The author delves far deeper into obscurity in her quest to discover what she can about the seminal Michigan heavy rock band Flying Wedge.
As Simone confesses, “the further I drifted from any kind of central narrative,” the less this brief book has much of anything to do with Madonna.