I’ve always loved a good person story. Since grade school, I have gravitated toward a variety of biographies, autobiographies and memoirs, and I read somewhere around 20 every year. I have favorites, of course. Those favorites have these things in common: a strong, vivid voice, well-put ideas, wit, and a healthy vocabulary.
Up on my list in the past couple of years are Your Voice in my Head, by Emma Forrest, Love in a Headscarf, by Shelina Janmohamed, and Girls Like Us, by Sheila Weller. After having finished Pink Prose, by Alison Hay, I’m adding her to the list.
I love when I am reading along in a book and find myself wanting a highlighter, or a notepad so I can jot down what the author has said and all the ideas the passage has fired up in me. This happened several times as I read Hay’s book. Her thoughts on objectification were my first happy jolt, then her frank dealings with the trappings of superstardom from the sidelines (especially her anecdote about a photo shoot with Annie Leibovitz) and managing to be a person and a personality, and again when she talked about sales, customer service, and negotiation. I finally quit using the highlight feature in my Kindle because I was just marking up too much. I’ll read the whole thing again later and think some more about all the ideas I liked.
Hay’s format flips back and forth between solid, this-is-what-happened stories from her life, and impressionistic interludes of this-is-what-it-felt-like moments in time. The latter require more attention paid, and more emotion invested from the reader–there is a sense of the Seventh Veil in each of those chapters (and if you haven’t read Skinny Legs and All by Tom Robbins, you must–then you will understand what I mean when I am talking about Seventh Veil reveals.) I really enjoyed the juxtaposition between water color words and solid, pop-art realism. It’s pretty rare to read a book that feels like you’re getting to move between gauzey Monet and bold Lichtenstein every few pages. Pink Prose is an art gallery of a book.
Maybe what I liked best is the way Hay uses the English language. Her tone is conversational and conspiratorial, but she speaks to you expecting your intelligence, your sense of humor, and your ability to keep up with her vocabulary and wit. Is it sad that I got so excited over her vocabulary? I couldn’t help comparing her easy command of language with the more pedestrian memoirs I’ve read from her contemporaries. She made me feel smarter for reading stories about Boy George, which is pretty hard to pull off.
I liked the book well enough that I have subscribed to her blog, and am hoping she’ll publish again soon. This is a memoir I can recommend without reservation, whether you are a fan of Culture Club or the 80s at all–oh, did I forget to mention that Alison Hay was married to Roy Hay of Culture Club, and that a lot of the book deals with life as part of a musical sensation? Yeah. I picked up the book because of that, but I couldn’t put it down because of everything else.
4.5 out of 5 stars–go read it!