Girl Power

As a teen girl growing up in the mid-'90s, Marisa Meltzer admits she participated in "the treasured cliches of the decade...complete with the standard-issue indie-rock tale of being rescued from life as an apathetic suburban teenager by riot grrrl, the feminist punk movement. I cut my hair short, wore YOUR BODY IS A BATTLEGROUND buttons on my backpack, and engaged in all girl singalongs to 'My Red Self,' the early riot grrrl band Heavens to Betsy ode to menstruation."

 

But Meltzer went a few steps further than most her peers in integrating her favorite bands into her life. She enrolled at Evergreen State University in Olympia, Washington, incubator for many of the overtly feminist, hyper political all-grrrl bands that defined the era, including Sleater-Kinney, Hole and Bikini Kill (whose lead singer, Kathleen Hanna, was her upstairs neighbor). There are any number of ways an homage to an era that happens to coincide with one's fan-girl youth can go horribly wrong, but Meltzer's new book on women rockers of the '90s is nearly perfect in its pitch and far from a one-note love letter. She openly -- and often comically -- skewers her younger self, and refuses to flatter herself by feigning indie-cred that some might say she deserves.

 

Instead, she reports: She gets original riot grrrls to talk (all the more impressive, given that many of them stopped talking to reporters after the media black-out of 1992); visits the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival (and its more inclusive transgendered cousin up the road); and looks at how the politics of the underground informed more commercial acts, including Alanis Morrissette, the Spice Girls, Britney Spears and Avril Lavigne. As she writes: "While girl power might be empowerment-lite, it's not going away. When a movement transitions, it doesn't lose all it's potency. Instead, it leaves us with a pop infused with politics."

April 18: "[W]ould it be too bold to imagine that all warm-blooded animals have arisen from one living filament…?"

Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch is the winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. James Parker calls this Dickensian coming-of-age novel "an enveloping…

advertisement
Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Poems That Make Grown Men Cry

And women too.  Luminaries from Colin Firth to Nick Cave and Jonathan Franzen chose the poems that bring them to tears, and the result is a stunning collection of poignant verse from writers like Auden, Whitman, Bishop, Larkin, Neruda and many others.  Warning: choking-up hazard.

The King of Pain

Trapped beneath his entertainment system, reality TV mastermind Rick Salter reflects on his life and tries to piece together the events of the previous evening. Seth Kaufman’s romp is an outrageous meditation on pain and entertainment in a deranged world in which the two are often interchangeable.

The Good Inn

Frank Black, frontman for the Pixies, has written a transgressive historical fiction with shades of Thomas Pynchon (focused as it is on the history of explosives and cinematic pornography), all set in a hallucinatory Edwardian Europe.