Saturday, December 12, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: I'll Never Write My Memoirs. . .

Legendary influential performer Grace Jones offers a revealing account of her spectacular career and turbulent life, charting the development of a persona that has made her one of the world’s most recognizable artists. 

As a singer, model, and actress—a deluxe triple threat—Grace has consistently been an extreme, challenging presence in the entertainment world since her emergence as an international model in the 1970s. Celebrated for her audacious talent and trailblazing style, Grace became one of the most unforgettable, free-spirited characters to emerge from the historic Studio 54, recording glittering disco classics such as I Need a Man and La Vie en Rose. Her provocative shows in underground New York nightclubs saw her hailed as a disco queen, gay icon, and gender defying iconoclast.

In 1980, the always ambitious Grace escaped a crowded disco scene to pursue more experimental interests. Her music also broke free, blending house, reggae, and electronica into a timeless hybrid that led to classic hits such as Pull Up to the Bumper and Slave to the Rhythm. In the memoir she once promised never to write, Grace offers an intimate insight into her evolving style, personal philosophies, and varied career—including her roles in the 1984 fantasy-action film Conan the Destroyer alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger and the James Bond movie A View to a Kill.

Featuring sixteen pages of stunning full-color photographs, many from her own personal archive, I’ll Never Write My Memoirs follows this ageless creative nomad as she rejects her strict religious upbringing in Jamaica; conquers New York, Paris, and the 1980s; answers to no-one; and lives to fight again and again.

M & J Review:

I’ve always wondered, out of all the over-the-top performers and unique artists of the past, why there was never a memoir written by Grace Jones? I felt like someone amazing was missing from an important decade. I never could put my finger on it, that is, until I learned Grace Jones had written her life story. Hmm, perhaps the answer lies within the title. Grace said she'd never write her memoirs and she lived up to those words. From a reader’s perspective, I couldn’t agree with her more. This truly wasn’t a memoir in the sense of the main ingredients you need to tell your story. Unfortunately, especially since I’ve always been a huge fan, I did not like this book. It fell flat and left me wanting so much more!

It starts off rather slow and I suppose that was due to the fact she was giving her fans the backdrop as to how she came to be. Being born Grace Beverly Jones in her home land of Jamaica, she wasn’t known as Grace Jones, but to family and friends as ‘Bev.’ Bev had a rather rough upbringing wherein she suffered mental and physical abuse. Her family was extremely religious and this was etched into Grace’s soul. There wasn’t any wonder why she did all she could to abandon her country and family for a life of freedom. However, having said that, the very life Grace worked so hard to leave, is the very reason why she is the way she is today. Actually, her family did her a solid, otherwise we wouldn’t have all the wild and crazy things she’s done artistically today.

There were too many chapters on her upbringing, which slowed the story down for me. It began to heat up a little when she gave us insight into the world of modeling and her travels abroad. She spoke candidly about her Studio 54 days and Andy Warhol and so many other artists who were around at the time. And once again, for me, it became too much and too many chapters of more or less the same thing over and over. Despite this, I forged ahead because I was waiting to read more about her music and movies she’s made over the years. Unfortunately, what I got was a huge lesson in the Disco era, which I happened to live through, so I wasn’t really looking for information regarding the 70s decade. Hell, if you watched Unsung and the story of Chic and/or the Disco series it did on TVOne, then you really didn’t need to relive those moments again. I felt as though she became preachy and that began to wear on my nerves. To be fair to her, I realize she did this to educate a whole new generation on what the times were like back then, but for someone who may have lived it, this chapter was easily “skipable!” (Is that a word? LOL)

She touched on different areas regarding her music, but once again, she really didn’t tell us much. She dabbled here and there on different things with her music career. I don’t know, maybe it’s just me, but I thought she would have given us a more definitive look into her life, and not just pieces and parts thrown together to make up a story. Actually, I truly believe she didn’t have any intention on writing her memoirs and when a friend of hers told her she should do it, she just threw this novel together. That’s exactly how it comes across. I learned a few things about her, but she wrote her book much in the same way she’s lived her life—pretty much whatever the hell she feels like. I’m positive my review wouldn’t bother her one bit because Grace Jones is quite pleased with herself, as she should be. 

I’m a little bummed that she attempted to write her memoirs, especially given the fact she never wanted to. I think she should have stuck to her guns because this 400 plus page book liked to drove me insane. It was a bit painful to read and I didn’t find it engaging or exciting as I would have expected coming from a woman who prides herself on being so different and eccentric and all about the element of surprise. Hmm, I suppose she was truly being herself. Grace lives by Grace’s rules and no one else’s, and she doesn’t make excuses about that or apologies. She does exactly what she wants to do and lives by that same conviction. I can’t hate the woman for that! She’s still an amazing entertainer and quite mysterious. There’s been so much speculation on Grace’s age, and she refuses to tell it. Not because she’s ashamed of the number, Grace doesn’t believe in aging in the standard way we’re taught to measure time. She’s space and energy and lives by that. Actually, I love her way of thinking. 

What I did love about her book is how she set the record straight on these ‘new’ artists out here copying her style and ‘grace’ (pardon the pun!) Throughout the 80s and 90s, I’ve noticed several artists copying Grace’s antics and it tickled me because I’m thinking do people recognize who they are trying to be? Grace’s attitude toward them and the situation was typical Grace fashion. She speaks her mind and tells it like it is and she means what she says, and again, she makes no apologies for that. You go girl, I say! At the end of the book she gives her fans a very beautiful collage of personal photos throughout her years. I absolutely loved that!

Overall, the book wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t the best memoir I’ve ever read, and I’ve read many. Even though I love reading about an entertainer’s life, I so wish she hadn’t tried to write this book because I could tell her heart wasn’t truly in it—the title says it all! She wrote it, but it could have been better. It wasn’t written with finesse and too choppy in some areas, and overdone in others. Again, having said that, this wasn’t a total disaster, and I still love Grace Jones. She’s an amazing talent, very eccentric and wild and crazy kind of gal who lives in her own space and energy and for that, I will always be a fan. Some artists shouldn’t write their memoirs, but perhaps put it to film. That’s what Grace should have done. Her story should have been on the silver screen. That’s where Grace’s story belongs! I think it would have been so much better, and I bet her heart would have been in it too! So, with that, Mello & June gives this book three stars. It was a good effort, but no cigar! It’s cool, Grace, you’re an original and I love you for that!

Kimberly Ranee Hicks, Author/Poet/Reviewer

When YOU Dare to be Different. . .
You Create a Legacy!