BABY PLAYS AROUND by Helene Stapinski


A Love Affair, with Music
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Well-lit, cracking memoir of Lower East Side nights playing in a band.

It all starts when Stapinski (Five-Finger Discount, 2001) is interviewing Julie for a magazine assignment about working the graveyard shift. Out of the blue, Julie mentions, “I want to start a band, but I can’t find a drummer.” Stapinski’s ears nearly rotate, but she keeps her cool: “Adjusting my voice so as not to sound too eager, I muttered, as off-hand as I could, my opening line. My come-on. My pickup. ‘Well, I play drums.’ ” Thus, after a good number of labor pains, the band I Hate Jane is born, putting a spring in Stapinski’s step and a glow in her cheeks. “When I played drums,” she writes, “I knew what those surfers felt like, inside the tube, the wave breaking over them, but at the same time carrying them, faster and faster,” into the music, which, “if practiced right, could climax in a way that made your knees all noodly.” She fills the gaps in the music and vice versa. The writing has a confidential, diary-like tone as Stapinski explains what it’s like to practice until you ache and what it is like to be “in clave. The groove. The moment when it all comes together.” There are also disruptive times, when new players tip the balance, a new group is born, an ex-player is shown the door; the band morphs this way and that until it finally leaves Stapinski in the exhaust. But the real counterbalance to the merriment and light is the explosion of the author’s marriage, falling apart and coming together and falling apart and coming together to deliver an emotional tattooing that she reveals to the quick without overplaying the genuine misery of it all.

Not so much a pretty picture as one of high contrast, all the energy and thrall caught in Stapinski's frame.

Pub Date: Jan. 27th, 2004
ISBN: 1-4000-6014-1
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 2003


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