The Importance of Music to Girls

The Importance of Music to Girls

Book - 2008
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"The Importance of Music to Girls "is the story of the adventures that music leads us into--how it forms and transforms us. As a soundtrack, it's there in the background while we go about the thrilling and mortifying business of growing up: raging, falling in love, wanting to change the world. Lavinia Greenlaw turns the volume up loud, and in prose of pure fury and beauty makes us remember how the music came first.

For Greenlaw, music--from bubblegum pop to classical piano to the passionate catharsis of punk rock--is at first the key to being a girl and then the means of escape from all that, a way to talk to boys and a way to do without them. School reports and diary entries reveal the girl behind them searching for an identity through the sounds that compelled her generation. Crushing on Donny Osmond and his shiny teeth, disco dancing in four-inch wedge heels and sparkly eye shadow, being mesmerized by Joy Division's suicidally brilliant Ian Curtis--Greenlaw has written a razor-sharp remembrance of childhood and adolescence, filtered through the art that strikes us at the most visceral level of all.

Published: New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008.
Edition: 1st U.S. ed.
ISBN: 9780374174545
Branch Call Number: 828.92 GRE
Characteristics: 208 p. ;,22 cm.


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Feb 10, 2009

I was Ian Curtis, too. Watching the lightning pass through him as he shook on stage, I thought of my panic attacks which were also electrical, a long moment of shock. I was about to go into the world and it kept pulling itself out from under my feet. Four months later, Ian Curtis hanged himself and I realised he was not Werther but a man in pain. I wasn't twenty-three but seventeen, and I was a girl. My pain erupted into panic every time I tried to walk away.

Jan 20, 2009

I remember the dancing of my earliest years in silence, as about the body alone. My father must have hummed a tune as I stood on his shoes and he waltzed me, but what I remember are the giant steps I was suddenly making. The world rose up under one foot and pushed my body to one side as that foot set off in a high violent arc. I didn't know if I was going to be able to follow but at the last moment the world gathered up the rest of me. And so it went on: the world pulled and shoved while I lurched and stretched.


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Dec 28, 2008

A review I read somewhere characterized "The Importance of Music to Girls" as a feminine "High Fidelity." I think it's much more emotionally unsettled, ambiguous and thorny than that, although it does share the same fundamental passion for music as an informing thread in one's formative years. And yes, the mix tape as love letter and personal statement makes appearances here, too.

Uneven at first (perhaps attributable to some of the pieces being published elsewhere), the collection picks up momentum and cohesiveness and gains focus as Greenlaw gets to punk music and, ironically, struggles with what she wants to do with her future. "Unquiet," which links Goethe's "The Sorrows of Young Werther" and Shakespeare's Hamlet with Joy Division's enigmatic and tragic Ian Curtis, is particularly moving.


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