Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Horror Stories by Liz Phair

This is actually one of the best memoirs I have ever read. I'm shocked because most celebrity memoirs end up as something of a disappointment. HORROR STORIES was not. It blasted through my expectations, shattering them like broken glass. Reading this is like listening to new wave music-- it's dark, it's lyrical, and it will pull you under its black sea of emotion, leaving you to drown in the turbulent emotion that's an integral part of the experience.

I was expecting HORROR STORIES to be all about Liz Phair's childhood, followed by her big break as a celebrity songwriter, followed by the usual "extended Oscar speech" formula in which the author tells glowing stories of all the great and talented people they know who helped them on their star-studded path to fame. Phair doesn't really focus on that at all. These essays are all discrete incidents taken from her life, many of them strikingly personal and jarring, and the theme, in true form to the title, is that these are all incidents that haunt her to this day, that she carries with her, and that have helped to make her who she is.

I felt haunted, too, after finishing this book. She is such a great writer and you really feel like you're there with here while she's describing each scene. She writes about being stuck outside in New York in the middle of the polar vortex, navigating empty and icy streets with thundersnow looming overhead. She writes about a chilling "Final Destination" moment, which results in near-disfigurement and/or death. She writes about the birth of her son, and the horror of her labor. She writes about college life, feminism, art, fame, privilege, mortality salience, and life. Every chapter was absolutely wonderful and there was not a single piece in this collection that I didn't like.

One caveat is that the copy I read and am reviewing is an unfinished ARC. Usually, my ARCs are pretty polished and, in the cases that I have compared them to finished copies, don't seem to vary much, but this one was missing two chapters. Not a big deal to me, as I loved the book and I doubt those two chapters contained any material that would have changed my rating, but in the interest of full disclosure, do keep in mind that my copy may differ slightly from the one that you buy.

Seriously, this is such a wonderful memoir. You should read it. I feel like this aptly-named book will stay with me a while.

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review! 

5 out of 5 stars

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