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Drugs are Nice: A Post-Punk Memoir

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In this eye-opening memoir, Lisa Crystal Carver recalls her extraordinary youth and charts the late-80s, early-90s punk subculture that she helped shape. She recounts how her band Suckdog was born in 1987 and the wild events that followed: leaving small-town New Hampshire to tour Europe at 18, becoming a teen publisher of fanzines, a teen bride, and a teen prostitute. Spin In this eye-opening memoir, Lisa Crystal Carver recalls her extraordinary youth and charts the late-80s, early-90s punk subculture that she helped shape. She recounts how her band Suckdog was born in 1987 and the wild events that followed: leaving small-town New Hampshire to tour Europe at 18, becoming a teen publisher of fanzines, a teen bride, and a teen prostitute. Spin has called Suckdog's album Drugs Are Nice one of the best of the '90s, and the book includes photos of infamous European shows. Yet the book also tells of how Lisa saw the need for change in 1994, when her baby was born with a chromosomal deletion and his father became violent. With lasting lightness and surprising gravity, Drugs Are Nice is a definitive account of the generation that wanted to break every rule, but also a story of an artist and a mother becoming an adult on her own terms.


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In this eye-opening memoir, Lisa Crystal Carver recalls her extraordinary youth and charts the late-80s, early-90s punk subculture that she helped shape. She recounts how her band Suckdog was born in 1987 and the wild events that followed: leaving small-town New Hampshire to tour Europe at 18, becoming a teen publisher of fanzines, a teen bride, and a teen prostitute. Spin In this eye-opening memoir, Lisa Crystal Carver recalls her extraordinary youth and charts the late-80s, early-90s punk subculture that she helped shape. She recounts how her band Suckdog was born in 1987 and the wild events that followed: leaving small-town New Hampshire to tour Europe at 18, becoming a teen publisher of fanzines, a teen bride, and a teen prostitute. Spin has called Suckdog's album Drugs Are Nice one of the best of the '90s, and the book includes photos of infamous European shows. Yet the book also tells of how Lisa saw the need for change in 1994, when her baby was born with a chromosomal deletion and his father became violent. With lasting lightness and surprising gravity, Drugs Are Nice is a definitive account of the generation that wanted to break every rule, but also a story of an artist and a mother becoming an adult on her own terms.

30 review for Drugs are Nice: A Post-Punk Memoir

  1. 5 out of 5

    Laurasmoot

    I picked this book up at a used book store about 6 months ago because it looked funny and decadent and smart, and figured whenever I'd get around to reading it, it'd make me feel like I was going some kind of interesting small-scale crazy until I finished it, which is a thing I look for from memoirs and certain kinds of fiction. Is your book making me think like you write? Cause I'm a double gemini and that sort of thing is a good time for me. And sometimes it's a bad time for me. I was a little I picked this book up at a used book store about 6 months ago because it looked funny and decadent and smart, and figured whenever I'd get around to reading it, it'd make me feel like I was going some kind of interesting small-scale crazy until I finished it, which is a thing I look for from memoirs and certain kinds of fiction. Is your book making me think like you write? Cause I'm a double gemini and that sort of thing is a good time for me. And sometimes it's a bad time for me. I was a little nervous that reading Lisa Carver's memoir was gonna make me feel self-destructive and brilliant. That sort of happened; this was a really good book to read on Septa with dark lipstick on (y'know?), and also for staying up desperately tooo late because only books and ideas matter. Upon finishing it this morning, though, I feel the most clear-headed and not-crazy I've felt in months, and all I want to do is write and write and write. And THAT is even better than what I was looking for. So she wrote this impressively curated and honest account of her weird, broken story, and don't we all have a weird broken story?--but hers is one that I care about because she's a writer and a woman and a raging misfit who still cares about normal people and y'know there's the post-punk? ziney subcultural lineage. Anyway, more than nice of Carver to let me crawl into her brain and think like her for a week or so. Better than that, she had some important things to say to me about friendship and childhood and Making Stuff and abuse and having a kid to raise, and she totally busted her ass to be able to figure out how to see them and say them. I still can't figure out whether to just sharpie over my copy's book review one-liner on the front cover that calls her "Hunter S Thompson in a mini-skirt," or to instead write underneath: "HST fucking wishes, you asshole."

  2. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Smith

    I'm going to suppress my desire to denigrate this as a fluffy memoirish ladytimes summer read, because while that's a tempting angle to take, it's not really fair. Lisa Crystal Carver is one of the proto-zinesters who made amazing and kind of solipsistic small-run self-obsessed photocopied magazines, back even before riot grrrl was really a thing or Sassy started covering the phenomenon. I was mostly into reading this because I treasure my compilation of her zine Rollerderby and I was curious to I'm going to suppress my desire to denigrate this as a fluffy memoirish ladytimes summer read, because while that's a tempting angle to take, it's not really fair. Lisa Crystal Carver is one of the proto-zinesters who made amazing and kind of solipsistic small-run self-obsessed photocopied magazines, back even before riot grrrl was really a thing or Sassy started covering the phenomenon. I was mostly into reading this because I treasure my compilation of her zine Rollerderby and I was curious to see how she would make the leap from the informalities of old school cut and paste to the officialdom of bookness. In her zines, Lisa Crystal Carver has this magic ability to write off-handedly about gross stuff (swallowing phlegm balls, her vagaries as Lisa Suckdog in the eponymous band/performance thing known as Suckdog, which often involved crude props and simulated scatplay on stage to accompany operatic music about lost kittens and stuff) and some feminist stuff (don't get scared away, though, this was before the towering pain in the ass of third wave Sex 'n the City feminism flamed up and out). It's surprising, somehow, that even with such saucy material to play off of, her best writing conquers the mundane (interviews with trashy cracker neighbors, reviews of her cats, hating on Linda Evangalista's new-at-the-time blond haircut). Gladly, gladly, a lot of the things I loved about Rollerderby are preserved in "Drugs Are Nice," but shown from backstage, with a more reflective look at the reasons feral teenage Lisa was so good, so bad, so slutty, so honest. And okay, the transition between zine and grownup nonfiction narrative is a little awkward at times. One gets the sense that she hadn't completely resolved her authorial position, whether to write from the present looking back at the past or to deliver it all immediacy-style with second person present tense, which annoyed me in the first few chapters but smoothed out eventually. Of course, no memoir gets published without one of those classic hard knocks arcs, and the arc here follows Lisa's abusive relationship with a manipulative and dangerous man much like her father, and her ability to get away once she could clearly see the effect her awful and wonderful father had on her relationships. That right there, that's the reason I'm tempted to class this as a beach read version of the other side of growing up Gen X, but wait, fuck that. This is Lisa Suckdog we're talking about here, who did an entire album of weirdo songs threatening GG Allin. GG ALLIN, okay?

  3. 4 out of 5

    Robin Bonne

    So much to unpack here. It made me very sad.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Richard

    With Drugs Are Nice, Lisa Carver has created the first enduring memoir of her subculture and generation. Called one of Playboy's "favorite cultural observers" and Boston Magazine's "supreme cultural anthropologist," Lisa Carver's has written widely on popular music, art, and her own sex life (as a Nerve.com diarist). In Drugs Are Nice, she charts the birth of the movement she helped create, from the dizzying highs of European performance art tours to the genesis of the zine phenomenon. It's an e With Drugs Are Nice, Lisa Carver has created the first enduring memoir of her subculture and generation. Called one of Playboy's "favorite cultural observers" and Boston Magazine's "supreme cultural anthropologist," Lisa Carver's has written widely on popular music, art, and her own sex life (as a Nerve.com diarist). In Drugs Are Nice, she charts the birth of the movement she helped create, from the dizzying highs of European performance art tours to the genesis of the zine phenomenon. It's an extraordinary life, told by a writer only now coming into her own as a major literary voice. In 1987 in the small town of Dover, New Hampshire, Lisa and her best friend Rachel--both seventeen--set up a punk show at the Veteran's Hall. When the headlining act got lost and drunk and never showed up, the audience was angry and the promoters hid in the bathroom. Then Lisa got an idea. The girls put on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, mounted the stage, smoked cigars, caterwauled, took off their clothes and hit things and people. Suckdog--called "the most interesting band in the world" by England's Melody Maker--was born. Lisa Carver left for Europe at the age of eighteen, quickly becoming a teen publisher (of the fanzines Dirt and Rollerderby), a teen bride (to French performance artist Jean-Louis Costes), and a teen prostitute (turning her first trick a few days before turning 20). Hustler called Rollerderby "quite possibly the greatest zine ever," and The Utne Reader chooses Lisa Carver as one of the "100 Visionaries Who Will Change Your Life." But when her baby was born in 1994 with a chromosomal deletion and his dad--industrial music maven and rumored neo-Nazi Boyd Rice--became violent, Lisa began to realize the life that needed changing was her own. A story of lasting lightness and surprising gravity, Drugs is a book about the generation that wanted to break every rule. A definitive account of rules broken, left intact and re-written forever, it ripens into the classic account of an artist and a mother becoming an adult on her own terms.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Selvaggina,

    I picked this up at a time when I was convinced that I couldn't make successful art. Reading about her adventures and drive to just do what she had to is still a big inspiration. I picked this up at a time when I was convinced that I couldn't make successful art. Reading about her adventures and drive to just do what she had to is still a big inspiration.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth Bedlam

    GG Allin is mentioned wandering into a bus station in the first chapter. So it wasn't boring. GG Allin is mentioned wandering into a bus station in the first chapter. So it wasn't boring.

  7. 4 out of 5

    malu

    dnf at 31% not a nice thing to say about a memoir but this book is gross, sad and problematic. there were a few good insights about art and people in general, but beside these little moments of ilumination the text was really difficult to read. this was definitely not for me.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Tina Hernandez

    I think that what the publisher info leaves out here is that Lisa Carver is learning to overcome the cycle of abuse, and lives in a whirlwind right up until she has her own kid and has to rethink her whole lifestyle...also, she does a great job of conveying what various (super interesting!) relationships she was in felt like. She didn't waste any space, either - I felt like she could have written a 3 volume set but instead chose to really pare it down and only include the most intense parts of h I think that what the publisher info leaves out here is that Lisa Carver is learning to overcome the cycle of abuse, and lives in a whirlwind right up until she has her own kid and has to rethink her whole lifestyle...also, she does a great job of conveying what various (super interesting!) relationships she was in felt like. She didn't waste any space, either - I felt like she could have written a 3 volume set but instead chose to really pare it down and only include the most intense parts of her unusually intense life. My favorite thing about this woman (and thus her memoir) was how she invented her own life and really DID everything she set out to do.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Chris Estey

    I slighted this book with my original review -- it is much more important than merely showing an early glimpse into GG Allin.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Delia Rainey

    a not-boring read, a gossipy tour/zine/fuck-up memoir, i had to read this on the bus and in waiting rooms wherever i went because i needed to know what was going to happen next. i loved running around with lisa and her band, and even as they did these shocking acts on stage, her book gave us so much genuine retrospection and thought, political and philosophical analyzing of it all ~ this was not a book written just for shock-value. it felt like this book was written for me, for girls who love se a not-boring read, a gossipy tour/zine/fuck-up memoir, i had to read this on the bus and in waiting rooms wherever i went because i needed to know what was going to happen next. i loved running around with lisa and her band, and even as they did these shocking acts on stage, her book gave us so much genuine retrospection and thought, political and philosophical analyzing of it all ~ this was not a book written just for shock-value. it felt like this book was written for me, for girls who love self-destruction, masochism, freaking people out with art, and underneath all of that, this naive and "good" desire to change the world. even though i love lisa throughout, she shows herself as such a flawed person. she changes her mind constantly about how she feels, she stays in abusive relationships and blames her own agency, she can't decide if she's happier as the submissive doll or taking control. she raises a baby under a nazi flag, she is a libertarian-leaning pro-lifer, but she's still denied her choice. in the end, i will never forget the relationship between lisa and rachel, even if their looking-back-on-life dialogue at the end on the train tracks was a bit cheesy. to find someone who understands you in this world, who stands by your side, and you save each other over and over again by needing each other, that's the whole point.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jacob Wren

    Lisa Crystal Carver writes: At the end of the tour, I tell Jean Louis I can't do these shows any more. I still think they're great; I still believe in a dirty glamour, and that chaos and violence and ambiguous relationships and constant travel can be paths to redemption. It’s just that it’s all wrong for me now because it doesn't embarrass me. Showing my body or its functions to strangers, being laughed at or chased away never embarrassed me. But saying what I really feel - any emotion, no matter Lisa Crystal Carver writes: At the end of the tour, I tell Jean Louis I can't do these shows any more. I still think they're great; I still believe in a dirty glamour, and that chaos and violence and ambiguous relationships and constant travel can be paths to redemption. It’s just that it’s all wrong for me now because it doesn't embarrass me. Showing my body or its functions to strangers, being laughed at or chased away never embarrassed me. But saying what I really feel - any emotion, no matter which one - makes me turn red and want to throw up. My flying limbs and flying vagina - both on stage and off - create a flurry of distraction obscuring my embarrassed heart and shy soul. I want to be and feel truly exposed. I mean, I don’t want to. I’m terrified to. But because I don’t want to, I want to.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Taylor

    I read this so that I could review it in Resonance, and it was absolutely fantastic and riveting. I didn't know much about Lisa Crystal Carver going into it, but as it turns out, she's a minor celebrity, having been involved with (either sexually or art-wise) lots of famous underground musicians. The writing style is exactly as it should be for a memoir - sometimes it feels like she's writing in her diary, because the facts are just so shocking and personal, and other times it feels like you're I read this so that I could review it in Resonance, and it was absolutely fantastic and riveting. I didn't know much about Lisa Crystal Carver going into it, but as it turns out, she's a minor celebrity, having been involved with (either sexually or art-wise) lots of famous underground musicians. The writing style is exactly as it should be for a memoir - sometimes it feels like she's writing in her diary, because the facts are just so shocking and personal, and other times it feels like you're sitting down and having a conversation with her. You really feel like you know her, and more importantly, you care about her life and what she has to say, which is something I occasionally struggle with when it comes to memoirs.

  13. 4 out of 5

    DoctorM

    I read Lisa Carver's 'zine "Rollerderby" back in the late '80s and actually managed to see one utterly chaotic, over-the-top, vaguely scary, really sexy, and musically incomprehensible Suckdog performance. At one point I did own a stack of Suckdog/Lisa Carver videos... I've followed her from her days as performance artist through 'zine star through Nerve columnist, and always had a major crush on her. So..."Drugs Are Nice" is a welcome memoir. It's funny, sad, disturbing, and told in Lisa's own I read Lisa Carver's 'zine "Rollerderby" back in the late '80s and actually managed to see one utterly chaotic, over-the-top, vaguely scary, really sexy, and musically incomprehensible Suckdog performance. At one point I did own a stack of Suckdog/Lisa Carver videos... I've followed her from her days as performance artist through 'zine star through Nerve columnist, and always had a major crush on her. So..."Drugs Are Nice" is a welcome memoir. It's funny, sad, disturbing, and told in Lisa's own acerbic but gentle style. Worth finding.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Leanda

    In 1994, I ordered a copy of Rollerderby. I had never seen anything as weird and different in my life. At the time, I kept the zine hidden in my journal. I brought it to the school cafeteria to show my friends. It was [south] Charlotte, North Carolina spring 1994 ninth grade. Everyone was freaked. I admit it-- I read this book beacause of Rollerderby and I love the title. It was a good read.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Mona

    Lisa "Suckdog" Carver shares her twisted and dysfunctional motives, feelings, and actions in this raw memoir. She is not afraid of exposing herself and all her passion, recklessness, and cravings for the real, the harsh, the intense. Although the book starts out with great momentum and a feverish pace, it does bog down a bit towards the end with a heavy and depressing focus on her abusive relationship with Boyd Rice and her handicapped son. Lisa "Suckdog" Carver shares her twisted and dysfunctional motives, feelings, and actions in this raw memoir. She is not afraid of exposing herself and all her passion, recklessness, and cravings for the real, the harsh, the intense. Although the book starts out with great momentum and a feverish pace, it does bog down a bit towards the end with a heavy and depressing focus on her abusive relationship with Boyd Rice and her handicapped son.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Kathy Penny

    I had the chance to meet Carver a few weeks ago so I was interested in reading her bio. It was absolutely fascinating. I also felt pretty connected because I too had once lived in Dover NH and felt a strong connection to the Seacoast area. I also have lead a really, really boring life as compared to Carver. A great read.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jaclin

    she reminds me of this girl i went to high school with. distracted by that fact. nothing in this book surprised me. nevertheless, enjoyed this and found that it went down easy.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jaina Bee

    LCC successfully transposes her gritty and glittery life story into the Hero's Journey. LCC successfully transposes her gritty and glittery life story into the Hero's Journey.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Matt Jasper

    Lisa is an amazing writer, and I'm not just saying that becasue she arranged for a group of women with scissors to cut my clothes off. . . . Lisa is an amazing writer, and I'm not just saying that becasue she arranged for a group of women with scissors to cut my clothes off. . . .

  20. 4 out of 5

    shannon

    seriously this was one of the more depressing things i have read in a while, and i friggin loved rollerderby. i guess not all things of my youth need to be revisited.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Anna

    First of all, it's important to note at the very start for future readers that: This is not a happy-funtimes book There are no dealings with any post-punk bands that people know There is pretty much nothing about drugs in this book This is deeply raw, personal and female I didn't know who Lisa Carver was before this and I'm still not super interested in her art, but her writing is good, interesting. Not impeccable, but very good, exciting, multilayered, it stays with you. I wanted to read the book be First of all, it's important to note at the very start for future readers that: This is not a happy-funtimes book There are no dealings with any post-punk bands that people know There is pretty much nothing about drugs in this book This is deeply raw, personal and female I didn't know who Lisa Carver was before this and I'm still not super interested in her art, but her writing is good, interesting. Not impeccable, but very good, exciting, multilayered, it stays with you. I wanted to read the book because of Boyd Rice. Well, this book, "Iconoclast" and his music and writings can together make a key that will unveil what he really thinks and which of the things he's accused of he's really done. The mechanism of his psychological sublimation can be revealed. Unfortunately I don't give enough of a fuck to do the research. He's a person who has made denying his true self into an art. The book shows what that entails. To rephrase M.Atwood - when women have trauma, men get laid, when men have trauma, women might die. It's all too fucked up and not-making-sense to be fake. That's how life is, it doesn't follow a correct narrative structure. The only thing I felt could've been fake is that he didn't immediately disown his son due to him being disabled. Must've been a short moment of contact with the true self, which he just couldn't take, so went down deep into fearful, violent darkness. As a person born in the 90s with a boring life and an average amount of trauma, this book has taught me: Why people do crazy things on stage Why women can be extra promiscuous What it was like to be a young person part of the underground in those times (the insane shit the international mail service had to deliver...) I very much enjoyed the descriptions and psychoanalizing of Lisa herself, the people around her and their relationships (Shit gets Freudian fast, it seems almost indulgent, but it all makes sense). I was interested in the descriptions of "setting up" her shows. I appreciated that there weren't many descriptions of unwashed scenesters having sex. Many conclusions and ways of looking at things are completely original (because they are authentic), same goes for her literary devices. The ending is kind of weird. Lisa believes that she's more or less solved the primal conflict with her father. Spoiler alert, her biography and this article say otherwise https://unbelievablybad.wordpress.com.... Then there's something her best friend says about her, which is interesting and probably true, but it rubbed me the wrong way like "here, read a long citation of something nice my friend said about me". I guess it was more for her than for me. I recommend this to people who are interested in why people are fucked up and what are the various ways to be fucked up. Reading it the same way you would read up on celebrity gossip and other such vile shit is possible, but would be cruel both to the author and the reader who, by not trying to understand and being empathetic, won't receive a lot of what this book can offer.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    I've read this at least twice, because the whole thing is so atmospheric. Carver's descriptions of the emergence of a scene are so candid and intimate at the same time. Even the hardest parts of her story I find so compelling. I didn't know anything about suckdog or Carver or GG Allin or Costes - when I was working my brief stint at a vintage store one of the other Weird Girls I know gave me her copy and said I might be interested. I was. I've read this at least twice, because the whole thing is so atmospheric. Carver's descriptions of the emergence of a scene are so candid and intimate at the same time. Even the hardest parts of her story I find so compelling. I didn't know anything about suckdog or Carver or GG Allin or Costes - when I was working my brief stint at a vintage store one of the other Weird Girls I know gave me her copy and said I might be interested. I was.

  23. 4 out of 5

    E

    It really brought the post-punk, DIY alt scene to life. The story-telling barrelled along even as I winced over all the bad choices. Essentially it is memoir version of the meme "some women would rather form a band, start a zine, and have a series of bad relationships with horrible men that act out unresolved issues with their father, than go to therapy." It really brought the post-punk, DIY alt scene to life. The story-telling barrelled along even as I winced over all the bad choices. Essentially it is memoir version of the meme "some women would rather form a band, start a zine, and have a series of bad relationships with horrible men that act out unresolved issues with their father, than go to therapy."

  24. 4 out of 5

    P.E. Tottenham

    truly one of my favorite books ever. carver’s gift is not quantifiable. all i know is she is what i think of when i hear the word artist. pain, bliss, passion, survival, real love. i wish i had read this as a teenager... @patrick tottenham

  25. 4 out of 5

    Zoe Whitelock

    Honestly one of the coolest, weirdest autobiographies I have ever read.

  26. 5 out of 5

    TheGodDamnCoffee

    What's to say? I love this woman with all of my heart. She saved me. Knowing someone like this exists... What's to say? I love this woman with all of my heart. She saved me. Knowing someone like this exists...

  27. 4 out of 5

    Anna

    She. What? I’m sad.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Mason Mann

    best thing ive ever read love you lisa carver <3333

  29. 4 out of 5

    Carolyn

    Interesting read. I'm not sure what to think of this memoir, which I'm absolutely sure is part of the point. The author is odd and has had lots of crazy experiences, but her writing is crystal clear and simple--it's a great juxtaposition. I recommend reading it, although it's strange. Interesting read. I'm not sure what to think of this memoir, which I'm absolutely sure is part of the point. The author is odd and has had lots of crazy experiences, but her writing is crystal clear and simple--it's a great juxtaposition. I recommend reading it, although it's strange.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Mira

    Despite my disdain for taking in anything that is influenced by the post-punk/grunge art movement (or anything that Sonic Youth would recommend or be recommended by), I am reading this hoping it's more directly about the process of post-punk rather than looking back and nostalgically regurgitating it. And it is more about the creative process of an individual within a certain time. It is because Lisa Carver gets in there and doesn't name drop for the sake of it. She observes. And she expresses th Despite my disdain for taking in anything that is influenced by the post-punk/grunge art movement (or anything that Sonic Youth would recommend or be recommended by), I am reading this hoping it's more directly about the process of post-punk rather than looking back and nostalgically regurgitating it. And it is more about the creative process of an individual within a certain time. It is because Lisa Carver gets in there and doesn't name drop for the sake of it. She observes. And she expresses that child/teenage voice in your head that never goes away, is always questioning everything but is high on new experiences, not just high...but probably that too. She definitely has a case of the dramatics, but it makes everything overt and surprising enough to make me keep reading. Good book so far. It's funny the things you learn from your parents.

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