I spend a lot of my time photographing culture, music, arts and entertainment so this is one of a series of infrequent posts looking at books, movies, visual culture, music etc. that IMO are worth spending time with in some way. My gut reactions and songs of praise or pillory.
Clothes Clothes Clothes Music Music Music Boys Boys Boys by Viv Albertine (Faber & Faber).
These days a life worth reading about is often like hunting for a needle in the proverbial haystack. Hack celebrity biogs are cut-and-pasted 5 minutes after someone’s name is in the press. Somehow a life worth writing about is crafted out of a handful of years and little lasting achievement. Padded lives are paid homage for the sake of a merchandising strategy put together by some unimaginative, pimple-browed exec looking for the cliched quick buck. The real meaning of biography is a rare exception, long lost in this attention deficit world.
Then along comes Viv Albertine. As ever putting her womanhood, creativity and pioneering spirit out there for us all to see in it’s messy glory. A real challenger for what it means to have lived a life worth writing about.
And it’s one heck of a ride as a book/life. Vibrating and pogoing it’s way through: her childhood, her love of music, adolescence, the punk scene, The Slits, illness, the misogyny aimed at her simply for being herself, relationships, sex etc etc. All under the powerful motivation of her desire to express herself without compromise. It pulls no punches about the ‘shit and blood’ that she has had to live through (more than her fair share). Nevertheless, she faces life full-on with a determination wrought from her yearning to keep creating. Truly inspirational.
It’s a book that is way beyond a simple music bio: a descendent of Whitman’s unconditional ‘YAWP’ (feminising it along the way). Driving the reader to examine what a life lived true to oneself really looks and feels like. For example, I found the descriptions of her desire to maintain her creativity in her mid-life, trusting the voice of rebellion, moving, potent and very close to home (muddling my way through what creativity means/looks like at 47). This book is a whole-hearted punkish 2 fingers up to the here-today-gone-tomorrow culture of X-Factor and Britain’s Got Talent.
If you love music, read it. If you love self-expression, read it. If you love life, read it.
More info here: Viv Albertine website