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Musical Chairs Paperback – October 3, 2009
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Jen Knox is an exceptionally gifted storyteller, who can take the events of the past and craft them invariably into engaging and compelling narratives.
--Phillip Lopate, author of Notes on Sontag
Jen Knox has accomplished what so many memoirists do not - she told her story in a clear, unsentimental voice with lovely prose that read like a well-crafted novel.
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These books are the first ones for each author. Being a survivor of sexual abuse myself, I'm typically for any book that brings this horrific subject into the public realm. How else can such things be dealt with? Pretending that such things don't happen, or that they always happen to someone else conveniently outside our families, doesn't seem to work very well. So, I was really enthused when Phillips's book came out. I watched the Oprah interview (and one or two of the others) and ordered her book.
In my opinion, Mackenzie Phillips is still in "pretend mode". Her continual justifications of her father's actions and affirmations of her love for him really grew tiresome. At this point I can't even imagine that Phillips will be able to stay away from drugs. Let's face it, she's only been "clean" long enough to write the book (with the aid of coauthor Hilary Liftin - and even that didn't help much). Phillips last arrest for drug possession was only a little over a year ago:
Problems like Phillips has don't get fixed in a year. Her message seems to be:
1). If you're in an abusive situation, continue in it until your perpetrator dies.
2). Once that happens try to see if you can fix what's left of you, but only after you get thrown into jail for possession.
3). Continue to justify your perpetrator by saying things like; "he wasn't a monster", "he was a tortured man" (so that gives him the right to torture others?), "he was on drugs" (a "good" excuse for anything), "he was a musical genius" (as if that makes a difference?), "I had and have profound love and respect for him", etc., etc., etc.
4). Then use your celebrity status to ram these ideas down the public's throat.
I quit reading Phillips's book on page 188, after a quite lengthy paragraph of these (and more) justifications. This is why I don't think Phillips had made it very far down the road to recovery. I certainly hope that I'm wrong, I really do. I'd like to see her begin to lead a normal life, in the real world. But all this has got me wondering what it is that Mackenzie Phillips really does love.
It's a shame that books like "High on Arrival" are given so much attention, while books like "Musical Chairs" linger in the background. Maybe our society should take a hard look within itself, as each and every individual should (addict or not), to preserve sanity?
In Jen Knox's book, I can at least visualize her permanent recovery. It's very difficult for those who have suffered from addiction and post-traumatic stress syndrome to fully recover and stay that way. Does anyone who suffers trauma ever really "fully" recover? Nevertheless, we can learn to lead normal lives, and find a degree of joy. "Musical Chairs" takes us down the path of much more typical roads to addiction and recovery, that almost anyone (even celebrities) should be able to relate to. Jen Knox's ability to express herself as she goes through major events in her life, in both thought and feeling, is absolutely top notch. I found this especially true of her feelings (where Philips's seem to be permanently blocked by drugs).
Jen Knox leads us through of a very honest and frank portrayal of her past. I admire her courage to take ownership of her past actions, let alone share them with the rest of the world. I'm sure her example will be truly beneficial to anyone who may read her work. (Phillips, on the other hand, keeps speaking as if it was another person who was doing these things, not her, as if she suffers from a split personality - which may be true.)
Though many women will read this book, they are not the only ones who should. If you're a man, haven't you wondered what goes through a strip-dancer's mind, what REALLY goes through her mind and what she's feeling while performing? Then you should read this book as well. It will give you quite a surprise (unless you're already well acquainted with the psychology). Though this is only one woman's experience, I believe it to be more typical than atypical of what women in this situation think and feel.
Criticisms? Jen Knox book isn't perfect. There are some things I would like to have seen more fully fleshed out. For instance, what the meaning of her grandmother's reoccurring delusion is. However, this is a memoir, not fiction. Reality seldom tires up all those loose ends of our lives. There are a few typos in the book; I think I counted about ten. Every book has typos, and as an author myself, I know how nearly impossible it is to get rid of them all. In one place there seems to be a sentence or two missing. But none of these cosmetic things are enough to distract from the story, or to affect my rating.
Jen Knox has created Jenny, a tough kid out of dark streets around the glitter of The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, who only bends but never breaks.She is uncompromising and brutally frank. Yet her intelligence and grit take her on an outer journey exploring inner worlds. That dynamic makes Musical Chairs a noteworthy, controversial, exceptional but disturbing work of fiction-- it is about coming of age and alienation, isolation and the need to be recognized. Usually told from a male perspective, Musical Chairs lifts gender related issues toward a more balanced presentation. The heroine here is also the author whose child within, we hope, has finally found safe passage and a happy home.
Most recent customer reviews
This is a must read for any adolescent girl who may be facing many of the choices...Read more