Book Recommendation: Alina Simone's Hilarious & Heartwarming Essay Collection You Must Go And Win"/>
One perk of being snowed in/too afraid for your life to venture anywhere on the icy roads? Hours and hours of reading time. I've spent the past three days devouring Alina Simone's collection of essays You Must Go And Win. Simone is a Ukraine-born, Brooklyn-based folk-rock singer; in 2008, after she released a tribute album of songs by the late Siberian female punk rocker Yanka Dyagileva, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux offered her a book deal; You Must Go And Win is the result. Throughout the book's ten essays, Simone weaves together stories of trying to make it as an indie-rock star with intimate recollections of her family roots--her parents were KGB-blacklisted from their hometown of Kharkov and subsequently relocated to Massachusetts, where Simone grew up.
Simone is a vivacious writer; through her sparkling wit and clarity, her stories come alive, warmly--stories of her visit to Dyagileva's Siberian grave with a punk-rock Russian Orthodox monk; her attempts to meet musical collaborators over Craigslist (one turns out to be a disgruntled, raving immigrant from Tbilisi named Georgi); her weeks driving around the country videotaping her childhood friend, a pre-Dresden Dolls Amanda Palmer, trying to stir up the attention needed to become a pop culture "icon" (Simone also grew up with the comedian Eugene Mirman, who remains one of her close friends); her gradual Kübler-Rossian shift from hatred to acceptance of Britney Spears after hearing "Toxic" on repeat 500 times on Siberian radio; her obsessive research into the Russian religious sect the Doukhobors, a group marked by two key practices--worshipping through choral music and self-castration.
In a recent interview with The Wall Street Journal, Simone asks her interviewer, "Did you like the book? Did you laugh out loud? I was going for laugh out loud." The book is laugh out loud; in some cases, for me, it was laugh and snort out loud. Below is one of my favorite passages, for speaking so truly, revealingly, and humbly. In this chapter, Simone is interviewing with a media relations and marketing company, hoping to get some help in promoting herself as an artist.
"We listened to your music," Lea said, without stepping into the room. "Tell me--did Pitchfork review your EP?"You Must Go And Win speaks to Simone's passion for music; her desire to spend her life as a musician. She's so overwhelmingly likable one can't help but hope for her musical dreams to come true. But after reading her fantastic book, you also hope she'll continue to write and publish as well.
"Y-yes," I said.
"And what was your number?"
My number? No one had ever asked me for my Pitchfork score before. It was like asking someone their IQ or their cup size or the balance of their savings account. There must be a rule somewhere saying that you can't just come right out and ask someone for their number without exchanging bodily fluids first. I was scared. I didn't really know whether mine was a good number or a bad number, objectively speaking. The review had been pretty good. But the number? It wasn't a terrible number, for sure. Not an amazing number, perhaps, but still--
I gave Lea my number. She stood there thinking.
"Okay," she said at last, coming unstuck from the door frame, "we can talk."