The Nexus of Pop-Culture Fandom

Quick Take: Laurie Lindeen’s Petal Pusher

Written by: Amy Brown, Special to CC2K

The former guitarist for ZuZu’s Petals delivers a lackluster memoir.

ImageLaurie Lindeen isn’t a very good writer. I don’t know what I was expecting from a $5 book from the bargain shelf, but it appears that I held my standards just a little too high, because this book still disappointed me. She has some mechanical issues that an editor could have fixed just by skimming the novel, and the fact that she said “ya” instead of “yeah” the whole time really grated on my nerves. But that’s not where my main criticism of Petal Pusher lies.

It’s hard to pinpoint what makes this book…not good (I hesitate to call it bad, because I have definitely read worse). It’s about a woman who drops out of college four times, starts a band called Zuzu’s Petals, gets more famous than most people will in their respective lifetimes (although the further success of Hole and Babes in Toyland annoys her to no end), is diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and dates and marries Paul Westerberg of the Replacements. Sounds interesting? It isn’t really. It seems as if this book wants to be two different things at the same time: a linear novel and a series of vignettes.

The thing that makes a book composed of vignettes effective (think of anything David Sedaris has written for a comparison) is that each chapter has a separate focus. Lindeen talks about being in a van with her band, and then in the next paragraph she’s talking about how the popular girls came to her house in middle school and drank her mom’s liquor. Not only is it choppy and hard to follow, generally the anecdotes have little to no connection to what Lindeen was previously talking about. Had the book been divided differently, or left out all the unnecessary disconnected vignettes, I might not have put it down every 10 minutes to go do something else.

Laurie Lindeen herself comes off as vapid and whiny. I really can’t think of any nicer way to put it. She complains about sexism in the rock scene (for example: “you rock for a girl”), but makes no effort to reach out to other female groups. She dismisses all of riot grrl, which is vastly more popular than Zuzu’s Petals, as “power complainers,” a topic I think she might know a lot about. Near the end of the book, there’s a bitter list of “things we’ve neglected to do that would probably improve our chances for fame,” and without naming names, she manages to alienate about seven different bands. I was 3 years old in 1992, but I know that she’s calling out L7 when she says “whip tampons out of our vaginas and into the audience.”

I also take issue with an author who can carefully detail every outfit of each member of the band, but who fails to mention the circumstances surrounding the band’s breakup. In fact, the most mention it receives is “Oh yeah, I’m at my sister’s wedding and by the way my band broke up four months ago, and this wedding is at Martha’s Vineyard, which upsets me.” Also, her diagnosis with multiple sclerosis is preceded by a (what I would presume to be) terrifying paralysis outside of a nightclub. But Lindeen writes: “I don’t have the apt words to describe it.”

Having the “apt words” is the basis upon which your novel is supposed to be based. Perhaps you shouldn’t have written a book, Ms. Lindeen.