Importance of Music to Girls

( 3 )


For the misfits, there will always be music. As the sound track to basement parties, late-night drives, and solitary rituals of self-pity, the right music gives context and momentum to the bewildering process of growing up. In this passionate, poetic memoir, Lavinia Greenlaw searches out diaries, LP covers, and old mix tapes to recall the torment and ecstasy of coming alive through music. The Importance of Music to Girls recalls the adventures that music makes possible: sneaking out, falling in love, cutting our ...

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For the misfits, there will always be music. As the sound track to basement parties, late-night drives, and solitary rituals of self-pity, the right music gives context and momentum to the bewildering process of growing up. In this passionate, poetic memoir, Lavinia Greenlaw searches out diaries, LP covers, and old mix tapes to recall the torment and ecstasy of coming alive through music. The Importance of Music to Girls recalls the adventures that music makes possible: sneaking out, falling in love, cutting our hair off, terrifying our parents, and challenging the world. Greenlaw's memoir reminds us how powerfully music has influenced the growth of our minds, and how inspiring the right song can be.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Has the precision and intensity of prose poetry . . . brilliantly traces the shaping of a rich, complex self."—Chicago Tribune

"A brief, masterful memoir."—The New Yorker

"Exhilarating . . . perfectly evokes the sense of release and rebellion of a teenage girl driving through the countryside with boyfriends, blasting heavy metal on the car radio. . . . An amazing feat of inventiveness."—

"Greenlaw brings her youth to life in this book. . . . Readers will hear the accompanying sound track wafting off the pages."—The Washington Post

"Highly original . . . will resonate with everyone who has ever danced around a handbag or played air guitar."—Daily Mail (UK)

"Highly original . . . I’ve never read anything like it."—The Buffalo News

"adorable...poignantly musing...and genuinely rueful."—The Los Angeles Times

Chrissie Dickinson
Greenlaw is a lovely prose stylist and displays a wide-ranging intellect. She's just as likely to launch into a meditation on the myth of Persephone as she is to discuss the impact a Buzzcocks single had on punk…Greenlaw brings her youth to life in this book. And whether it's madrigal singers rehearsing in the living room or metal blasting from the radio in a car full of partying teenagers, readers will hear the accompanying soundtrack wafting off the pages.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly

In her first memoir, British novelist and poet Greenlaw (Mary George of Allnorthover) tells of coming to know the world and her place in it through her love of music. The story begins as she first awakens to her inchoate senses, a tiny child waltzing with her father, lulled by her mother's singing and clamoring amid the boisterous play of her three siblings and the entire family's constant chatter. She discovers that outside her home, the world is a series of social rings she must struggle to break into, from joining Ring-a-ring o' Roses games to finding a sense of belonging as a plainly English girl in a culturally diverse school. Growing up in the late 1960s and '70s, she's captivated by her transistor radio and the shifts in pop culture that it heralds, from hippie music to glam rock to disco. As she matures, she swears her allegiance to the latter, moving en masse with primping and dancing girlfriends. She then turns to punk, which "neutralized and released" her from the weight of femininity, and then to new wave, which suited her "seriousness and pretensions." Her punk sensibilities confuse her sense of how to love and be loved, "how to have feelings without ironizing them too." Greenlaw's coming-of-age story is smartly and tenderly told, likely to snag readers like an infectiously catchy tune. (May)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

A girl's emotional and aesthetic response to music is the chief concern of British novelist and poet Greenlaw's (Mary George of Allnorthover) memoir. This introspective tale of coming of age in and around London-primarily, in rural Essex-in the 1970s conveys the growth and formation of the protagonist's character through her evolving relationship to music in all its forms, from the Sex Pistols to her mother's singing to disco dancing in platform heels, and the insecure, adolescent Greenlaw finally finds understanding in punk music. Greenlaw employs music as a vehicle to invoke childhood experiences and remembrances of time passed. She writes in a poet's prose, and though the pace is slow, what occurs is deeply felt. This title will appeal to music fans as well as all readers interested in coming-of-age stories. Recommended for large public libraries and for women's studies and contemporary music collections in university libraries.
—Katherine Litwin

Kirkus Reviews
Coming of age through popular music. British novelist and poet Greenlaw (An Irresponsible Age, 2007, etc.) didn't perform daring feats, conquer cancer, start a business or save anyone; most of her adventures involved sitting in bedrooms listening to records. Nonetheless, her achingly sensitive memoir about trying to grow up through, around and within pop music does not fail to amaze. She presents herself as a young girl bewildered about her place in the world, first as a sensitive child in 1960s London, roiled by hippie and glam crosscurrents, and later as a teenager in a village outside Essex, where her slow ripening coincided with that of the punk movement. During a confusing adolescence, she attempted to fashion a cohesive self through the music she listened to, judiciously acquiring LPs and hungrily listening for furtive signals from the European continent on a little transistor radio. At 14, a pivotal age in her musical autobiography, she exulted in punk style, especially its collapsed gender distinctions. Fortunately, her tolerant, seemingly disinterested parents granted her the freedom (and presumably the funds) to pursue this temporary rebellion, with all its attendant dangers and delights. As the Chi-Lites gave way to the Sex Pistols, Devo and the Damned, she sought but could not regain the easy camaraderie of dancing at the disco with her girlfriends. Though decidedly personal, her story will resonate with those who, like the author, experienced firsthand the sea changes of popular music in the '70s, as well was with those who discovered the era's gems later. The taut, lyric thrum of Greenlaw's prose reflects her poet's skill. Introducing each chapter with epigraphs selectedwith care from great works of Western literature, she weaves her quietly intense tale into a much larger narrative. Well-written, bewitching and subtly dazzling. Agent: Derek Johns/AP Watt
The Barnes & Noble Review
Music is important. And it's different for girls. That much is quite clear in Lavinia Greenlaw's collection of brief essays that eloquently chronicle the myriad false starts of becoming on the path to growing up. It's Greenlaw's halting progress toward adulthood that is somewhat less certain. "I was wrong -- standing in the wrong place and making the wrong shapes, the wrong noise." In 1970s Essex, with no MTV to guide her, Greenlaw describes falling into one genre after another. Desperate to "learn to be a girl," she flings herself headlong into Chopin and Chicago with equal fervor. Unlike boys, Greenlaw notes, girls aren't inclined to discuss music or play air guitar. Instead they spin records as a soundtrack to their metamorphosis: putting up posters and ripping them down; squeezing into pencil skirts, then tossing them aside for garbage bags; screaming, crying, spraying their hair into winged helmets, then cutting it all off. Punk, for example, "didn't just change what I listened to and how I dressed. It altered my aesthetic sense completely. This is what music could do: change the shape of the world and my shape within it." A poet who has also written opera libretti, Greenlaw's lyricism is constant throughout the changes she chronicles, whether evoking the thrum of the Sex Pistols or offering spot-on observations of awkward adolescent experiments. For those who came of age in the '70s -- and those who did not -- The Importance of Music to Girls is a riff off a familiar theme, inviting us to sing along. --Lydia Dishman
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312428372
  • Publisher: Picador
  • Publication date: 5/26/2009
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 587,148
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

LAVINIA GREENLAW is a novelist and poet. She was once in a band. She lives in London and is a professor of creative writing at the University of East Anglia.

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Table of Contents

1 My Papa's Waltz 3

2 Dapples and Grays 7

3 A Cloud Struck by Lightning 10

4 All Wound Close in a Ring 12

5 Plaine and Easie Rules 17

6 Kore 22

7 A Grope Pizzicato 26

8 Come on Something 29

9 Spanish Dancer 33

10 Ventages 35

11 What Shall I Do to be Saved? 38

12 Cover Versions 42

13 Crush 45

14 Taxonomy 48

15 Laughing Gas 51

16 I Late Went Singing 58

17 Delicatissimamente 64

18 The Cat's Whisker 71

19 Joyful Occasions 75

20 The Kitchen Arias 77

21 Broken Voices 80

22 The Other Side of the Air 82

23 The Electrified Self 85

24 The Slow Dance 90

25 As If in Space 93

26 Spirits 97

27 Another Ten Seconds 100

28 The White Room (1) 105

29 An Exuberance 107

30 The White Room (2) 110

31 Towards Music 112

32 Twelve Copies of the Same Original 116

33 Silver Jubilee 120

34 Elvis Est Mort 124

35 Separation and Contrast 127

36 Freedom 130

37 Protest and Survive 137

38 Lost People's Meeting Point 140

39 A Home for Good Music 146

40 Secondary Worlds 149

41 High Mountains 152

42 Diastole, Systole 155

43 A Certain Disorder 157

44 Forget Me Not 161

45 The Electric Ballroom 166

46 Spiral Scratch 170

47 Forever Young 174

48 Punk Est Mort 177

49 Split the Lark 180

50 Expressive Values 185

51 Unquiet 189

52 Ping 192

53 Won't You be my Girl? 194

54 Fuck Art, Let's Dance 196

55 CCD 201

56 Seven Years Later 203

Acknowledgments 207

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 2.5
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