June 7, 2007

Book Review - Petal Pusher by Laurie Lindeen

In a new series for Largehearted Boy, guest contributors will review music books. To kick off the series, Jodi Chromey weighs in on the memoir of Laurie Lindeen (the wife of Paul Westerberg).

Jodi's website, I Will Dare, is simply one of my favorite blogs. The combination of literary, musical, and personal insights is well-written, sincere, and honest, and often the funniest thing I read all day.


Jodi Chromey of I Will Dare reviews Laurie Lindeen's memoir, Petal Pusher: A Rock and Roll Fairy Tale:

Laurie Lindeen is charming. She’s smart too. In fact, Lindeen is so charming that while reading Petal Pusher: A Rock and Roll Fairy Tale, I spent a good deal of time really wanting to love the book. But, as is often the case, love cannot be forced. Which sucks.

Petal Pusher is about nearly everything that fascinates me about rock and roll: female rock stars, the Minneapolis music scene, and Paul Westerberg, former front man for The Replacements. Overshadowing all this is Lindeen’s struggle with Multiple Sclerosis, a disease she was diagnosed with in her early twenties.

So it’s not as though the memoir was lacking dramatic punch, if anything there was more drama than one book could handle. Which is probably why some of it comes off as less than emotionally honest.

At first Lindeen’s friendly and personal voice is warm and inviting. You feel like she’s sitting next to you telling her story. She tells you about being a struggling rock band, how unglamourous touring is, and shares the euphoria of good gigs and falling in love with a rock and roll icon. She even writes things like, Reader, it was a lot of fun. So charming.

But whenever things get serious, Lindeen distances herself and the reader from the story. What bothers me so much is that it seems as though she made a concerted effort to make the reader a little unsure of what is exactly going on.

The narrative jumps back and forth in time quite a bit, leaving the reader unsteady about when certain events actually take place. During one of the book’s most dramatic scenes, Lindeen switches to second person leaving you to guess which insensitive boyfriend wasn’t ready to take care of the child she was carrying. Is she protecting her rock and roll legend husband or some nobody we’ve never heard of? Who knows? And, that’s not fair. If you’re going to include the scene in the book the least you could do is be honest with the readers.

This is the problem with Petal Pusher. While Lindeen’s friendly voice makes you feel like she’s taken you into her confidence, once you get to the end you realize she’s kept you at arm’s length the entire time. She hints at the sexism of the rock and roll business, but never really explores it. She mentions how people thought that Zuzu’s Petals only gained success because of who they knew (Paul Westerberg, Dave Pirner of Soul Asylum, Mark Olson of The Jayhawks), but never really talks about how that made her feel.

Lindeen even leaves out the scene where, after a shitty tour, she breaks up the band. Instead, she tells us in passing that she broke up the band and that it has made her sad. Yeah.

Like I said at the beginning, I really wanted to love this book. I’m a huge Westerberg fan, and had to make an extra effort to let Lindeen rise or fall on her own merit. After reading her book, I think she’d want it that way (there she is again with her charm).

So it nearly kills me to say that Lindeen’s at her best when she’s writing about Westerberg. Her words come alive when she writes about him. You can actually feel the giddiness of that first crush, see her fear about groupies, and understand her worries over the record company exploiting her relationship to market Zuzu’s new record. It’s a shame that she doesn’t bring the same passion and energy to the rest of the book.


see also:

reviews by Jodi Chromey at Largehearted Boy
book reviews at Largehearted Boy
Book Notes submissions (authors create playlists for their book)
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2007 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2006 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2005 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2004 Edition)

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