Rat Girl: A Memoir

Rat Girl: A Memoir

by Kristin Hersh


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The founder of a cult rock band shares her outrageous tale of growing up much faster than planned.

In 1985, Kristin Hersh was just starting to find her place in the world. After leaving home at the age of fifteen, the precocious child of unconventional hippies had enrolled in college while her band, Throwing Muses, was getting off the ground amid rumors of a major label deal. Then everything changed: she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and found herself in an emotional tailspin; she started medication, but then discovered she was pregnant. An intensely personal and moving account of that pivotal year, Rat Girl is sure to be greeted eagerly by Hersh's many fans.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780143117391
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 08/31/2010
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 967,731
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Kristin Hersh has released more than twenty albums over the course of her career which have sold more than one million copies worldwide. She records solo, as well as with her bands Throwing Muses and 50 Foot Wave.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“Ultra-vivid writing and intense honesty is what you'd expect from Kristin Hersh, one of America's finest songwriters. But Rat Girl is also a startlingly funny and touching memoir of her mid-Eighties moment as the bi- polar, pregnant, intermittently homeless frontwoman of a rising indie-rock band. It's a gripping journey into mental chaos and out the other side.” – Simon Reynolds, author of Rip It Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978-84

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Rat Girl 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 25 reviews.
AsYouKnow_Bob on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Reminds me a lot of Woolf's cautionary tale (in A Room of One's Own of "Shakespeare's Sister": that, however hard it is to be an artist, however hard it is to deal with your problems, both struggles become even harder yet when you find yourself pregnant at eighteen."Now I know I'll never be numb again. A mother is condemned to feel everything forever."
bobbieharv on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I tried really hard to get into this book since I got it as an Early Reviewer, but I just couldn't. Part of the problem, I guess, is that I had never heard of Kristin Hersh, so I couldn't figure out why I was supposed to care about her; also the different fonts and different forms (diary entries and song lyrics) and the bizarre concentration on Betty Hutton (even though it really happened) just distracted me. Maybe I should try again another time.
MeganAngela on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
For a debut novel, Kristin Hersh does a decent job with Rat Girl. I think the main issue with this memoir is that it is very unpolished. However, that may be the way that Hersh wanted her memoir to feel, especially considering the subject matter. Plus, considering that her band, Throwing Muses, and the genre of music that they are is unpolished, this may just be par for the course.For me, I will say that my favorite parts were the ones where she wrote about her friendship with Betty Hutton. Hersh really made Hutton pop from the pages. When I finished the book I didn't care to know much more about Kristin Hersh, but I DID immediately start going to look for movies and music of Betty Hutton's. So, for that, I am grateful. This memoir introduced me to a lively spirit in Betty Hutton. It's sad that Hersh couldn't make herself sparkle and shine on the pages of her own memoir over a side character, no matter how important Hutton was to her.I believe that fans of Kristin Hersh or Throwing Muses will enjoy this memoir far more than someone like me who came into the memoir knowing nothing at all. I'm guessing that it got sent to me due to my love of Joe Meno books and their ilk, but that is neither here nor there. This is an average memoir at best. A second reading may change my mind, but as of now unless you are a superfan, until her work seems more polished and focused, this might be a memoir to skip.
madhatter22 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a memoir about one tumultuous year in Kristin Hersh's life. In 1985 her band, Throwing Muses, was just taking off when she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Medication helped control the (vividly described) chaos in her brain, but that chaos was also part of her creative process. To further complicate things, she discovered she was pregnant, and needed to figure out how to stay physically and mentally healthy while still being able to write and play music. The story is interspersed with really interesting passages describing her childhood growing up on a commune with hippie parents. Oh - and in college she became friends with actress Betty Hutton (yeah, that Betty Hutton) which provides a lot of funny stories. The writing is dreamy and frenzied, raw and touchingly honest, and it matches the lyrics scattered throughout the book that illustrate the events she's describing.This book is a fan's dream come true, but you don't need to be a fan or know anything about Kristin Hersh to enjoy this beautifully written book.
superfastreader on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Kristin Hersh is one of the few people whose memoir I would want to read. I tend to hate the genre. And musicians in particular are not my favorite subject. But I have loved Kristin Hersh and her sister Tanya Donelly ever since my college days, and have been fascinated by their relationship, Hersh's bipolar issues, and their evolution as women as seen through their music.So I was thrilled to score a copy of Rat Girl from Librarything's early reviewers program--and so disappointed to find it just another memoir, unfocused and unedited. I just couldn't stay interested. I guess I expected more because I love her music so much, but even she couldn't elevate a genre I pretty much detest.
superblue on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This memoir was absolutely interesting and I couldn't stop reading. Hersh tells the story of the formation and progress of her band, the Throwing Muses; her struggle with mental illness, and her experience being pregnant and trying to balance her life as a student, musician, and teen. Hersh's writing style is quirky and engaging. The way she uses words illustrates her talent as a lyricist, as her writing is musical and poetic. Although Hersh leaves out what some might consider important details (such as the situation with her parents (step-parents?) and the identity of her child's father), I feel that this was a good decision since it allows Hersh to take all the responsibility for her actions and shows how independent and self-assured she was as a young woman fending for herself.Her descriptions of the ways she experienced her bipoloar disorder were especially interesting. It is true that mental illness is experienced differently by different people, however, this is the most unique description I've ever read. Because she is a musician, her illness is filtered through her musician's brain and results in manic flashes of songs, which she painstakingly memorizes, writes down, and eventually plays in the frenetic style of Throwing Muses.Very engaging, readable, and humorous. Hersh never takes herself too seriously, never displays an inflated sense of self, and takes the world on her own terms, never apologizing for the choices she made.Lastly, I enjoyed the cover illustration by one of our best underground comics writers, gilbert hernandez of los bros hernandez. And to round out the experience, Hersh has included a link to free downloads of a special session of her playing songs mentioned in the book.
alexann on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Hersh's memoir concentrates on the year she was 18. Her rock band Throwing Muses was finally seeing some success--was there a recording deal on the horizon?--she is treated for manic depression, and she becomes pregnant. From the sleazy bars where the band performs, to the hospital, to Napoleon's creepy room where she crashes, to Boston where they get their break, Hersh paints her life in stunning prose. Most searing is the way she depicts being confronted by her music. It haunts her, beginning as raw sound then slowly evolving into chord progressions with lyrics. "It was all so irresistably colorful. Every chord I heard carried with it the impression of a color; these colors blended along with the chords in gentle swathes of sound-light. Each beat had a shape that appeared and then disappeared instantly, creating its own visual pattern that coincided with the rhythm. I watched and listened, bewildered and enthralled, as sound and color filled my empty hospital room." Writing like this, along with a vanful of interesting characters (her band-mates, and Betty Hutton!), makes a fascinating study of growing up with an indie rock band in the mid-80's.
haloolah on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
As a fan (but not a superfan) of Kristin Hersh and Throwing Muses, I was happy to receive Rat Girl. Unfortunately, I just can't get into it. Maybe I'm not in the right frame of mind and I'll like it better later, but for now I'm setting it aside only half finished. The descriptions of how Kristin feels while she plays and writes music are really interesting, but I can't stop my mind from wandering away during other stretches. Diary style novels and memoirs are usually right up my alley, but this time I'm not getting it. I'm glad some people love it, though.
susanbooks on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I came to this book with low expectations. I had just read Joe Jackson's memoir & thought it was awful: pretentious, unfocused, and worst of all utterly boring. I love Hersh's music, just as I love Jackson's, and was worried that she, too, maybe in different ways, wouldn't have written a book I found readable.I was completely wrong to worry. This book quickly became unputdownable and ended up being one of my few 5-star books. Hersh's narrative, based on the diary she kept at 18 and the lyrics of her songs, has a grace, a power, an immediacy that I've found in few other writers. There's horror here but humor, too, and through it all there's music and the wonderful and mundane things that insprire it.One of the things both wonderful (by which I mean a thing of wonder, as opposed to something very good) and mundane that Hersh's book deals with is mental illness. I won't give the story away, but Hersh treats this topic with a gorgeous complexity. At one point she writes, "I know psychiatry is a science, but how do you measure a systemic effect like soul sickness in a cold, flat room? It was messy, huge; a muscular panic. It actually felt more like . . . art" (Hersh's ellipses, 228).There's also a beautiful set of friendships detailed here, between the members of Throwing Muses, between Hersh and former actress Betty Hutton, between Hersh and the beige boy, and others. Hersh has produced an exceptional book. I really hope she continues in this form.(Thank you to Hersh, to Penguin, & to Sonia & LibraryThing for giving me this amazing and unusual reading experience.)
JanaRose1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I had never heard of the band Throwing Muses before reading this book. Yet I was instantly intrigued by Kristin¿s story. The child of hippies, Kristin is a shy, yet extremely smart, teenager. She feels music with every fiber of her being. At time, the music comes to her, playing over and over in her head until she picks up guitar and writes the song. As her band is becoming popular, Kristin is diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Hersh¿s writing about being bipolar is extremely powerful and moving. Through her words, the reader experiences what it feels like for her during her powerful manic states. After reading this book I feel as if Kristin is a close friend, one who has shared her insights and muses with me.
vasquirrel on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Kristin Hersh's memoir, Rat Girl, follows the year during which her band, Throwing Muses, was poised to record their first album and reach beyond beyond their cult club status, she is diagnosed as bipolar, and she finds that she is pregnant. It sounds like a lot to cover, but Hersh skillfully meshes the threads of her story in a compelling narrative, which ALSO includes, of all things, her friendship with Betty Hutton (yes, THE Betty Hutton). They are introduced by her father, a "hippie" college professor, and bond in class and in the library bathroom. Oddly fascinating, but not distracting. Somehow it ALL fits. Most interesting, though, are the incredibly vivid passages in which Kristin describes the sounds, colors, and kinetics of the music that alternatively charms, frightens, inspires, and stalks her. After her bipolar diagnosis, the reader wonders, right along with Hersh, whether "getting well" means losing the music. A teriffic read and a real testament to the support that Hersh has in her bandmates (including her sister Tea).
Limey_Jim More than 1 year ago
I was drawn to this as a long time fan of Throwing Muses; but was half expecting something a little pretentious. But this is written with a light, often self-deprecating, touch - and I enjoyed much of the book; particularly the relationship that Hersh develops with former Hollywood idol Betty Hutton, and then the passages that follow the discovery of her pregnancy. Overall - a great read - not the typical entertainment memoir (and that is definitely a good thing).
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What kind of name is that