Friday, December 30, 2011

My life with Lisa Carver....a review, of sorts, about her new book and why you should read it, even if it makes you uncomfortable

This is Lisa Crystal Carver. 

In the 90's, Lisa was my hero. She wrote this amazing zine called "Rollerderby". To say it spoke to me is an understatement, a dismissive wave of the hand, a failure to convey to you just how important every word she wrote was to my 20 year old self. I can still pick up a copy and devour it, lickety split and be transformed back to a time when it was acceptable to drink whiskey from the bottle and rip my baby doll dress while making out with my boyfriend in the bathroom as David Yow is puking in the sink between songs. Every night was an adventure, free and young, torturing myself and everyone around me with manic gone awry. I related to Lisa because she documented her adventures in her zine as if she was letting you read her diary. The things I thought about she wrote, talked and sang about. I wrote her letters and stopped being so afraid to be who I thought I was. When she wrote about music, I listened. When she wrote about New Hampshire, I dreamed about it. I saw wolves and giants and naked blood lust. I saw angels and twirling. She was a muse, I hung her high above me and reached for her. My 20 year old self didn't understand why we connected, why I love her so, why what she writes speaks to me. I couldn't. 
I met her when Suckdog came to Kentucky. She wrote about it in Rollerderby. I was drinking whiskey with my first husband, Jim. We were not well behaved. I liked her a lot. She was funny. I think we scared her, though I can't be sure.

As her writing career flourished, I followed it. When she wrote for magazines, I bought them. I read The Lisa Diaries and still, the voice always spoke to me. I wondered what was happening with Lisa, with Wolf, her son. She had a daughter, Sadie, too. I also had a son and daughter. I thought about Lisa and her family and what they must be like. How did her head work thru the normal things? I had such a struggle with myself, I was always amazed at her floating, writing, mothering, having the power to be all of those things and do them so well. She is beautiful and strong and outspoken. She says what she means and sticks to it, even when it isn't what is expected from Lisa Suckdog. You know Olivia Newton-John's character, Kira,  in Xanadu? She is like that! You can't see the rollerskates or the magic flowing out of her fingers, but you know it's there.
Lisa started a project last year that I followed via Facebook. She painted every day and would post pictures of what she had painted. The first few paintings were very childlike, very basic and almost like sketches with paints. The more she painted, the more her style grew with her subject matter. While I didn't always understand what Lisa was painting, I liked watching her grow thru the paintings. It seemed like every time she posted one, she told a little more of her story. I was pretty sure she didn't care if anyone else "got it", she was getting it and that's why she kept going. I honestly didn't expect to see them all in one place at one time. I didn't expect she'd sell every single one, either. I never thought I'd have one sitting on my bookshelf, a gift from my first husband's wife, my son's stepmom, the incomparable Jax. I cherish it. I also didn't know that Lisa was unlocking secrets, the kind you keep from yourself.
Lisa at 16 possibly.

What happened after kinda surprised me, too. Lisa had asked for ideas for her next painting. Jim challenged her, who knows how it was worded, but Lisa's next subject matter involved me, my beautiful gift painting, Jim trying to steal said painting and Jax coming after him. Talk about a surreal moment- I had no idea it happened until I saw the photo of the painting. I really like the way she pictures my room. and she painted me defensive and I like that, too.

The way Lisa writes is personalized. Not like mail order pencils, more like because she writes about herself, I feel like I know her. Even when I know I don't, I still feel like I do. I have heard about her family and her exploits. I mean, she has a whole book about her sex life. Of course, we all think we know her. The truth about that is I don't know Lisa. I have hung out with her, I have seen glimpses of personas and craziness and whatever she wants me to see. That may or may not be who Lisa is.

"When I first started painting, I couldn't break the habit of words, but I painted over these after." - Lisa Carver

Lisa has a new book. 

No word title. Just the blank. It features the 100 paintings she did. The one I have, the one you may have, the one of me, Jim and Jax. The paintings tell a story.  We were forewarned by Lisa that others who had attempted to read her book had been properly horrified or cried and couldn't finish it. I was thinking of the words other people, like NY Times book reviewers, may use to describe Lisa's book.
"gripping" "raw" "gritty" "a glimpse of...."
Strangle-Hands by Lisa Carver

She had us try to guess what her book was about on a special Facebook page to promote the book. I saw a lot of guesses about feminism and power and sex, a lot of hitting on Lisa by random guys. What I didn't see was anyone guess that Lisa's book was about Lisa. Someone may have guessed, I just couldn't keep up with the 100's of posts everyday. 

I had no idea what I was in for when I asked Lisa's publisher if I could review the book for my blog. I was sure there would be the paintings, pretty sure Lisa would have random musings, maybe some sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll, probably some mentions of her family. Maybe it would be a short story fiction, Lisa style. At the very least, I knew I'd be entertained, maybe live a little vicariously thru Lisa, hopefully get to interview Lisa just because I like her and it would be fun. I knew my mom wouldn't like the book, or I was pretty sure she wouldn't.

"you can't see scars on white people because they're white." -Lisa Carver

When I opened the file, I had a gut instinct that something about this book was very different. The Table of Contents divided the book into sections (When I got Parts and Things Got Worse, The Lone Horsegirl of the Apocalypse) and as I scanned thru the names of the paintings("Come Inside, I’ll Kill You, You’ll Kill Me","Wrists Attack Razor"), I felt a disturbance in my core, a yearning, a squirm kicked up like a warning, the kind right before Michael Myers slashes up the kids making out on the couch (and I like it), the uneasy watching salad fingers gives me, the feeling that I shouldn't like this, but I am going to anyway and it's going to make me feel disturbed in the most pleasant comfortable way. Somehow, I am going to twist into this and it will feel like part of me, like my dog dying, like squeezing the bruise, like pins and needles, I should be afraid, but I'm not. I shouldn't feel happy, but I do. What is wrong with me? Nothing is, I just like feeling uncomfortable. I'm used to it. I've grown accustomed to it. I rely on it.
"Jim Stuck In The Window Trying To Steal Tiny Painting"

The cover page has statistics about child prostitution and I knew what the book was about instantly. I thought back to Lisa's writing, her drug use, her promiscuity, her crazy stage antics, the boyfriends, the rage, the adventures.The things about Lisa I related to, but didn't see. The signs of abuse were obvious, like strippers with daddy issues. I started reading- about abuse that started when Lisa was younger than my own daughter. About horrible things her father made her do and the way she learned to cope her way thru the abuse, the way he controlled her and everyone around him. I hated him. The more I read, the more I hated him. I hated the men in the cars and her father's girlfriends. I hated the mom who kept taking her back there. There was suspense, waiting to see how she would come out of this. I didn't want to read the details of the abuse. She is a master manipulator and somehow had kept me in her grasp, choking and gurgling on every word. Luring me back with a calmer moment, then throwing me back in to that hole, writhing while she learned to be still and starry eyed.

 Then it changed. It stopped being Lisa explaining her abuse. Learning to adapt to survive is something lifetime movies get made about, it's the core of the good guy saves the girl movies. It's pretty much the plotline for every episode of Law & Order. The big, powerful man saves the weak girl from whatever is hurting her. There are grand promises and one liners and in the end, the girl testifies and the bad guy gets hauled off to jail and everyone is happy crappy. Cue a music swell and a fatherly detective with tears in his eyes.

The hero here isn't what you expect. The victim isn't, either. The story isn't over because I think it's just beginning.

Wounded, an animal will chew it's own leg off to get out of a trap, a human will chop of his arm with a pocket knife. We can all understand those situations in their context and perhaps imagine ourselves doing the same thing. We will watch the movies and the awards will be passed out, but under the canopy of the "I had to do it to survive" is a tiny tent, off in the distance. One of those I see it out of the corner of my eye, but when I look directly at it, I question whether it's really there. 
Lisa contorts to survive. The sexual abuse, it feels wrong to write this, becomes secondary to the roles she plays, the actress she has to be, the division of herself into parts and knowing which role to play. No wonder we don't know Lisa, she doesn't know who we want her to be. Picking out the pieces through the paintings, piecing a memory full of holes back together, watching the different girls divided, paraded through her mind, deciphering what's real, what's true and what's the unicorn. What really happens when you are twisted into a nightmare and don't know it's a nightmare.
That is what my 20 year old self didn't know because I didn't know.
When I live in a parallel place to where others reside, I don't know it's happening. I don't know your life looks different. I just know mine. I don't know that I am performing a delicate dance inside a structure I created to protect myself from myself, from my environment, from the bad people mothers are supposed to warn us about. Lisa's words scratch at my surfaces, bringing the secrets up. The paintings unleashed them, her words wrapped them into packages with brown paper, each labeled "Lisa" and as each twine is cut, a new Lisa comes out. That's how she lived, survived and moved on. Pummeled by waves, just keep swimming.
Now, it's all laying here, in front of me, ink on paper, vivid hues dance the stories onto canvas small enough to be insignificant, but large enough to be important.
I wonder still how she juggles it all, the filing system, how the rage didn't turn her very dark, like her father. Or very aloof, like her mother.
Lisa Carver saved herself. She made nesting dolls for each girl, she rolled them up and away like undressed paper dolls tucked into the heating vent. Who knows when they'll be discovered or if they ever will. When the heat comes, they blow. She didn't have a knight in shining armor rescue her, whisk her away to his castle on a white steed. She didn't burn at the stake, at least not enough to kill her. She may have some scars and battle wounds, but we all do. Bravely, she picks the scabs and shows us the inside. Then, instead of picking at them some more, she is letting them heal. That is how and why and what.
While the girl inside of me still loves the Rollerderby, the crazy, the stab you with her eyes Lisa, the 39 year old me embraces the grown up she has become, the mother, the saviour of herself.
I like her hero. Like my own hero, she has been right there all along. We just had to dig her out of the wreckage.

"I hope that, for the people who have something buried inside them, something in the book will reach down deep enough to stir it up a little. Which is very uncomfortable, if not excruciating. I mean, that stuff is buried for a reason. But it's lonely. Don't hide it your whole life as if it's too shameful to live forever. That's like saying you're too shameful to live. And that's not true for anyone."
-Lisa Carver

You can get Lisa's book from:
You can also buy Lisa's music from her band, Suckdog, and the site also says all 25 issues of Rollerderby will be available, some in print and all in PDF format. 
You can follow Lisa on her Facebook page and also on __________'s Facebook page.
Lisa has an ebay shop, too!
Check out Lisa on Wikipedia cos it is just cool she is on Wikipedia.


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  2. Inspired by Lisa Carver without naming her!

    Saturday, December 1, 2012
    by Darius Smith

    Editor's Note:
    This article was delivered to me by a bike messenger wearing a T-shirt with that Pynchon Trystero muted horn symbol on it (making me suspect he worked for some kind of post-post underground postage courier) as I made room for cream in my morning Venti brewed house roast at the Starbucks on Beverly and La Cienega. Handwritten with what seems to be a piece of coal on margins of discarded newspaper, I found it necessary to type it up myself — so Mr. Smith will forgive me if I have made any mistakes — and I withhold his usual fee. —Anthony Franciosa, 2012

    Heather Prescott—true Queen of England and future Empress of New India. A full-kit rock'n'roll drummer and former L.A. studio whiz kid, she is now plotting her next move in New Zealand. Pay heed, kids.

    What do I know about Tiffany Richardson? Well, she carries Flowers of Evil with her wherever she goes for the past three years (she is 22). Also, she is the premiere visual artist of the Western Hemisphere, and the finest performance artist worldwide. A quick example of her third towering ability, her sometimes kind, sometimes devastating wit: "We loved you until you were a success. When you were a has-been we loved you again (some of us) even more. When you died, when we played your songs, we died a little in a happy way and you were reborn, every time." Actually, I suppose this isn't "wit," only an excerpt from a paper (!) letter, including envelope and stamp.

    Who is Monica Todd? She is a mystery girl, a Girl Scout, a Marine squad leader, librarian, and mad poet. Currently Secret Queen of America, in love with the modern world and at war with the modern world, Monica is a go-go Eighties Anti-Christ, and my favorite person who ever lived.

    Sybilka "Eye-WItness" Storie is everywhere I look, as a model for a Supergirl comic book, her face on an acne treatment box for ten years, lately is seeing everything as for the first time, becoming alternately exuberant and deeply despondent all day every day—so she bought a camera to have a little more control over what she sees for now—in the end she will control an entire Empire. If she even dared to learn guitar and voice she would soon command an Empire of Sight and Sound.

    My Tania Shelley: Born a White Goddess in Central Africa, sometime suburban punk, sometime street punk, sometime gutter punk, Miss Shelley currently plays a feisty, aggressive, sometime drunk skate punk on a Russian comedy-drama called Every Young Superstar You Could Imagine. Of course they are all unknowns on the show, but yes, the actors all command a forceful style, especially Tania, and it would be a crime against humanity if Miss Shelley doesn't become a worldwide star. Not that she really cares….

    Here's all I know about Heather Dameron. She successfully revived The Popular Front in 2000 and now tens of millions of Americans are secret communists. They wait only for Miss Dameron's signal to crush the U.S. government. It should take ten minutes. She said it's OK to admit that The Moss Problem is a key part of the Popular Front, all the better to admit it now when it comes across as just another joke. But, reader, realize this: Heather Dameron is the only child of Miss January 1962. Her father is JFK. So there.

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