Lisa Crystal Carver – Drugs Are Nice: A Post Punk Memoir (Snowbooks, 2006)
I’d only ever been vaguely aware of Lisa Suckdog (aka Carver) and her ‘zine Rollerderby in the 90s but my interested was piqued when I saw Stewart Home quoting her book on his web page about Tony Wakeford.
It’s actually not a bad read and is fairly easy to get hold of cheap. The book covers Lisa’s life from childhood up to her mid-twenties with the bulk of the tale focusing on her involvement in the US 90s underground/diy/zine scene.
Lisa writes well and comes across as pretty honest about being fucked up and confused. Maybe too honest – I found the first half of the book infuriatingly breezy in places. But perhaps that’s my problem because I too once fell in love with the idea of transgression and unlimited creativity and living life on the edge. Though, of course I never really went for it because there were a gazillion things that seemed to be holding me back. Many of them, as it turns out, entirely sensible ones. I think I know just as many people who died, or went mental from that scene as ended up being a star or making a living out of it. Of course the larger proportion are people like me who just did (and do) their bit and juggle real life at the same time.
So, part of me is annoyed that Lisa lead this seemingly endless life of adventure hooking up with headcases like GG Allin, doing mad operatic performance art shows across the world, selling thousands of copies of her zine, putting demented records out and generally having a good time.
The other part of me is annoyed because I remember meeting people who seemed self-consciously confrontational, subversive and decadent. On paper they were wildly exciting – in person, they were fucking tedious and self-obsessed.
Obviously I am unfairly tarring Lisa with the same brush – but what is great about her story is the gradual change in emphasis. Perhaps paradoxically she becomes more interesting, not less, the more “conventional” her life experiences become. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the accounts of her mad exploits with French performance artist Costes a great deal and her girly ruminations on US underground culture (which I assume is as male-dominated as the euro variant).
For people not familiar with Lisa’s work I imagine a big point of interest will be her relationship with industrial musician and “occult fascist” Boyd Rice. Like many industrial or neo-folk musicians Rice has constructed a vast mythology around himself which serves as excellent branding for flogging his records. Rice’s mystique somehow allows him to posture as a Satanist, misogynist neo-nazi who is a cool guy really because he likes 60s girl groups and is at prankster at heart.
Carver’s account tells a rather different story. In contrast to his promotion of social darwinism, Rice comes across as completely dysfunctional – a grown man who ponces off his mother to fund his booze habit. A delusional inadequate who beats his partner when he doesn’t get his way.
The deterioration of Boyd and Lisa’s relationship after their son is born makes for uncomfortable reading. It marks, I guess, the end of a particular road for the author. Her subsequent trajectory is an interesting mish mash of questioning and being uncomfortable with a more comfortable lifestyle. Other reviews of the book I’ve read tend to either ignore this and focus on all the mad counterculture stuff, or portray the story as someone having their wild years young and then growing out of it. But it isn’t “just a phase” – far from it.
For me Lisa’s insights at the end were the best bit – still slightly fucked up, no regrets about her past, still questioning the whole ethos of the various roles that society has allocated her. To what degree is it possible to reinvent yourself? Can you ever completely escape the influence of your parents? Do these sort of things matter?