Wednesday, August 24, 2011

"Deflowered: My Life In Pansy Division" by Jon Ginoli

Being both a musician and a music enthusiast, I actually was not surprised that I hadn’t heard of The Pansy Division. If there’s any genre that has more bands than anyone can keep track of, it would definitely be punk. The name really only stuck out to me because of its closeness to the band name Joy Division, one of my favorite punk/post-punk bands. But I was also intrigued because the only openly gay rock star anyone really hears about is Freddy Mercury. I was definitely excited to delve into Jon Ginoli’s account of his life and music career.

The only thing that really shocked me about his book was his style. Most autobiographies are written in almost the exact same tone. Ginoli writes about whatever he feels like, and is completely unapologetic about the language he decides to use. When I read the book I felt as though I was listening to an audiotape. I could hear every “goddamn” and F bomb he decided to drop into his story. He goes into a little more detail about his sexual encounters than one would expect. Some would say a little too much detail, but it doesn’t really faze me. I, for one, really enjoyed the colloquial style of his memoir.

His story is also something that attracted me. All the bands he started out listening to or cites as his influences, such as Blondie, Elvis Costello, Bob Dylan, and Patti Smith, are all artists that I currently listen to. Not only do I relate to his music tastes, but also in some forms of his teenage rebellion. His parents, being relatively cool with their rules are really similar to mine. Therefore, he had to rebel in small ways. He didn’t want to smile for his senior picture or wear a cap and gown for his graduation. I refuse to wear my retainer because I like my teeth slightly crooked, and I prefer wearing vintage boots to girly sandals. We also both share the same feeling about constantly being forced to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in schools. It was actually strange how relateable his story is to my own life.

My one criticism of his book is that he occasionally throws around words like “dyke” to just describe people he knew. I’ve always felt uncomfortable with people using words like that, whether they’re gay or not. I don’t believe that being a minority entitles someone to use a hurtful word outside of context just because it’s usually used to describe that person.

This book is once again for the more mature reader, only because the language he uses and the lack of censorship in many of his anecdotes would probably make a young kid uncomfortable to say the least.

What I liked most about his story is that he represents a change. There were very few, if any, openly gay punk musicians when the genre first started. People were afraid of being associated with that label, and the cost that association would bring them. But in starting the Pansy Division, an all-gay punk band, Ginoli and his band mates became the crossover artists for their genre. They proved that setting a precedent is totally doable. And even more so, it’s pretty awesome.

People shouldn’t be afraid to do what they want and be themselves at the same time. You never have to split your personality from your career. You just need to figure out your own way to go about doing it.

Review by Soraya. Add your review of "Deflowered: My Life In Pansy Division" in comments!


ivanova said...

Great review! Makes me want to read the book. Jon Ginoli sounds kind of like Bradford Cox of Deerhunter.

I also wanted to comment that sometimes minority groups will deliberately "take back" a derogatory word and use it with love and affection, so that in its reclaimed form it means something positive. That may be what this guy was doing. When I hear the word "dyke," to me it means "awesome lesbian" and I don't have any negative connotations with it. So when I was younger and someone would shout "Dyke!" at me in the street, I would just think, "You make no sense" and it didn't achieve its intended hurtful effect. It's the same way people re-appropriated the word "nerd," which used to be an insult, but now because of nerd pride I don't think it is. I think there are a bunch of words that we take for granted, like "Yankee" to mean American, that were originally insults and the people who were being called that just turned the word on its head so they couldn't be insulted by it.

Anonymous said...

If you liked this book, check out Bob Mould's See A Little Light.