cover image Rock She Wrote

Rock She Wrote

. Delta, $15.95 (477pp) ISBN 978-0-385-31250-9

This intelligently compiled, wide-ranging volume provides exciting evidence of women writers' inroads made over the past three decades into the still male-dominated field of popular music criticism. Pioneers such as 1960s New Yorker columnist Ellen Willis and Jazz & Pop editor Patricia Kennealy-Morrison (better known, tellingly, for her marriage to rock icon Jim) are grouped with younger counterparts, from novelist Mary Gaitskill to cultural critic bell hooks in sections broken down loosely by topic. In ``I Am the Band,'' female performers such as Sonic Youth bassist Kim Gordon, offer touring testimony; critic Jaan Uhelszki, meanwhile, finds herself onstage with Kiss, makeup and all, for a 1975 Creem magazine assignment. The latter instance points up one of the book's most fascinating aspects: in a rock-and-roll world where boys wear lipstick and girls increasingly get to make lots of noise, the effects of gender on both performer and listener are far from straightforward. Many of Rock She Wrote's strongest pieces--Joan Morgan's story on her love/hate relationship with Ice Cube's misogynist rap; Lori Twersky's musings on familiar images of the ``female teenage audience'' as screechy and sex-crazed--find their writers at the intersection of conflicting reactions to the subjects at hand. A remarkable collection, Rock She Wrote makes clear both the difference women writers have brought to music writing and the impossibility of any attempt to nail that difference down once and for all. (Nov.)