cover image Love, Janis

Love, Janis

Laura Joplin. Villard Books, $22.5 (342pp) ISBN 978-0-679-41605-0

Blues singer Janis Joplin, who died of a heroin overdose in 1970 at the age of 27, is recalled here by her sister, who seems as square as Janis was hip. Although the portrait opens inauspiciously with a yawn-inducing chapter on the family tree, it gains momentum as it describes the performer's adolescence in Port Arthur, Tex. She emerges as a woman who resisted stereotypical feminine behavior; no student, she dropped out of college twice--first to move to Venice, Calif., later to live in San Francisco. Her warm, exuberant, apparently infrequent letters to her concerned family glorify the late-'60s Haight-Ashbury scene, where she gained notoriety and wealth with the band Big Brother and the Holding Company. The book chronicles the singer's drug and alcohol abuse, her famous friends (who included cartoonist Gilbert Shelton and musician Country Joe McDonald) and her overwhelming fame. Despite her sister's occasionally disapproving, jealous tone, fans will welcome this intimate, poignant look at a fondly missed superstar. Photos. 60,000 first printing; first serial to Rolling Stone; author tour. (Sept.)