cover image Rat Girl: A Memoir

Rat Girl: A Memoir

Kristin Hersh, Penguin, $15 (320p) ISBN 978-0-14-311739-1

In this rambling and unremarkable journal of the year 1985–1986 in the life of an 18-year-old musician in Providence, R.I., Hersh tells of her coping with the sensory-overload of manic-depression and pregnancy. The daughter of divorced hippie intellectuals, raised in Georgia, Hersh crashed in a messy, rat-infested house of painters, attended classes at a Catholic college where her philosophy professor father (called Dude) taught, and fronted the rock band Throwing Muses. Young Hersh was shy and a little too squeaky clean for some of the grungy venues the band played; her unlikely best friend at school was the older movie star Betty Hutton, "a warm heart in a cold world," who had returned to school for a master's degree, and often drew on her famous life story for cautionary lessons. Hersh began having perception difficulties on stage, first because she refused to wear her glasses; she then started having visions that involved snakes and colorful sounds. These manic episodes were finally diagnosed by mental health professionals as evidence of bipolar disorder. On lithium, Hersh grew shaky and bloated; her band pushed to move to Boston, with hopes of recording. Hersh unexpectedly became pregnant and had to face grownup concerns way before she was ready, which she chronicles in flat, sophomoric prose. (Sept.)