During the 18th year of her life, Kristin Hersh went crazy, got signed, and made a baby. I first met her back then, in 1985, when she was the mesmerizing front person of the band Throwing Muses, and I was a college senior writing my first-ever newspaper article for pay. I had no idea everything she was going through or about to go through; I just knew I really liked the band, Throwing Muses, that she led with her half-sister Tanya Donelly.
Kristin reveals the depths of her despair that year in Rat Girl, the memoir released by Penguin last year, from which she performed excerpts at the Getty Center last night. It was an intense evening of profound psychological revelations, leavened by Hersh’s self-deprecating humor. Kristin imagines what people must have thought about her vocalizations: “It’s o nice they let that deaf girl sing.” Actually, those of us in the Rhode Island music scene knew she was gifted, the real deal. I wish I’d realized what hell she was going through — that I’d been a sympathetic shoulder, not a vulturistic journalist.
I wrote back in the fall, when I caught up with Kristin again for an article for the paper in which I first wrote about her, about how well written Rat Girl is. Her literary genius was clear to me again last night: She’s got a Sylvia Plath/Anais Nin vibe. She’s so the real deal.
I was blessed to have someone as talented as Kristin as my first assignment — maybe that’s why I’ve stayed with the game so long. If you care about music and writing, buy Rat Girl. It’s a dark book, a hard book. But as Kristin says, comparing Throwing Muses’s music to spinach, I swear it’s good for you.