Face It: A Memoir
(Dey Street, $32.50)
Punk rock, given its rejection of mainstream consumer culture, “wasn’t meant to have a face,” said Matt Damsker in USA Today. But Debbie Harry rewrote rules. With her “bedroom-eyed baby face,” the lead singer of Blondie branded the band with a cool glamour, and “her almost uninflected vocals” lent “a subtle toughness” to the killer hooks in the hits “Heart of Glass,” “One Way or Another,” and “Call Me.” A child of the New Jersey suburbs who gravitated to 1965 New York at 20, she experienced the best and worst of the pregentrified city’s bohemian lifestyle, and her new memoir “doesn’t colorize or whitewash the details of her journey.”
“Face It has one of the best senses of place and time of any musician bio of recent memory,” said Bob Ruggiero in HoustonPress.com. Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Joey Ramone all make cameos as the downtown music scene shifts from Max’s Kansas City to CBGB. One night, Harry is robbed and raped at knifepoint. She writes that the loss of the band’s guitars bothered her more than the assault. Later, while on tour with Iggy Pop, she shares cocaine with David Bowie and he’s inspired to expose himself—“as if I were the official c--- checker or something,” she quips. But once “Heart of Glass” tops the charts in 1979, said Sibbie O’Sullivan in The Washington Post, “the book suffers in ways rock memoirs often do—rehashing the next album, the next tour, and so on.” Harry is better when deconstructing her image—a conscious spin on drag performers and Marilyn Monroe.
She appears reluctant to drop the act, said Lauren Oyler in Bookforum. Possibly, she’s “so genuinely cool that everything really did just roll off her back.” But she brushes past every hint of pain or loss. More tellingly, she appears determined to present Blondie as punk, even though the band’s greatness lay in its ability to bend genres, mixing punk with disco. In simplifying her origin story, she has conformed to today’s market demands. “What would have been punk is to write no memoir at all.” ■