Review: ‘Rock Monster, My Life With Joe Walsh’

Kristin Casey stops by the store this Wednesday, March 21 at 7 p.m. to read from her new memoir, Rock Monster: My Life With Joe Walsh. Below, the author’s sister (who also happens to be a former BookPeople employee) shares her thoughts on the book.

9781945572791A little background before I talk about this book. You should know that Kristin Casey is my sister. I’m close with all my sisters (there are two others), but mine and Kristin’s relationship is, and always has been, one of deep connection and understanding. We both came up (separately) in the punk scene, we were both what my dad liked to call “free spirits,” we were (and are) both voracious readers, we both write, and we both had our issues with substance abuse. I’ll be honest, she got sober right after I turned eighteen, just as I was ramping up my partying. Had I not had her around to talk about life and drugs and depression, had she not shared her stories and the insights she gained doing her work in the program, my life likely would have turned out very differently.

Suffice it to say, reading her memoir, Rock Monster: My Life With Joe Walsh, was an emotional experience for me because, despite having heard many (though not all) of these stories before, and being a tiny part of the story myself (see photo on page 205!), I had never really thought of these stories as part of one single, bigger story. Also, I was a kid when she and Joe were together and didn’t understand what was happening at the time. I just knew my sister was madly in love and I thought that meant happy. Also, Joe was so nice to me … just weird and goofy and nice. I liked him. When I started high school, I told him I wanted to play bass in a band. I bought an old, cheap bass to learn on and a few weeks later he bought me a practice amp (a Crate, no less) so I could practice properly. Like, how cool is that?

So yeah, it was hard to read about how my sister and this cool guy I really liked when I was a kid nearly destroyed each other. (I mean, two drug addicts in love, what could possibly go wrong? A lot, as it turns out, but shockingly not everything.) But, the further I got into Rock Monster the more I understood the world as my sister experienced it. The book, despite what some reviews may indicate, focuses on Kristin’s experience of the events as they unfolded. Rock Monster, ultimately, seems to be answering this fundamental question … why?

We all have something that drives us, sometimes many things. A good narrative also has something that drives it, and in this case Kristin’s inner life is what drives this narrative. This through line of what-the-hell-is-happening-in-Kristin’s-mind binds together what might otherwise be considered a series of crazy rock n’ roll lifestyle anecdotes and turns it into reflection on all the ways people try to get the things they need most in this world: love, acceptance, security, and fulfillment.

I’d like to rename the book Rock Monster: The Education of Kristin Casey, because while it focuses on her relationship with Joe (and rightly so … the relationship was a defining period of her life and the catalyst for much of what happened later), it’s less about Joe and more about the effect the relationship and all its madness had on her. It’s a giant piece in the middle of a much larger puzzle. I suspect most people’s lives are similar in that they have some defining thing/event/person in their history — the giant puzzle piece around which most other pieces fall. Rock Monster is relatable in that way even to those who never dealt with substance abuse, or the mental states that often give rise to it. We didn’t all smoke crack, clearly, but we’ve all come up with some way to cope with self-doubt, or self-loathing, or insert-your-issue-here. Kristin’s giant puzzle piece just happens to encompass the classic triumvirate of sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll.

So yeah, about the sex stuff. People love to get hung up on this part, because for some reason kink is seen as something abnormal (mentioning the Eagles’ song, Get Over It, feels somewhat apropos here). I’d love for everyone to take a moment when they read this book to consider all the cultural stuff bound up in how we think about sex, and realize that each person’s sexual expression is not just about sex. Our sex lives are complex manifestations of other parts of our psyche. When Kristin talks about sex, she’s not just talking about sex. Btw, this is a woman that knows more about sex than probably every person I know put together (and my friend group is very sex-positive, so that is saying a lot). When you are reading about sex in this book what you are also reading about is desire, need, acceptance, identity, bonding (or lack of it), and communication (maybe a few other things, as well). You are also reading what is, undeniably, some of the most awkward and disastrous attempts at sexual communion ever (okay, maybe not ever). I have to admit, there was a point where even I was rooting for Kristin to just get laid properly, already, geez. But I digress …

The book’s jacket says, “a sexy, crazy, cautionary tale of two addicts in love without a single relationship skill.” It’s hard to find a more concise description than that, honestly. It would be a mistake to think this book is just a rock-star-girlfriend memoir, or an addiction memoir, or a sex memoir (there is nothing just about anything my sister does). It’s all these things, as well as a story of Kristin’s near-death and unlikely redemption. I mean, yes, you should come for the sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll, but if you stay for the after-party you’ll likely find that those things are just window dressing. It’s what’s underneath that is really compelling.

Kristin Casey has an in-store reading & book signing at BookPeople on Wednesday, March 21 at 7 p.m. I’ll be there, too!

— Sarah H. 

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