I'll Never Write My Memoirs: Grace Jones writes a self-help book that only she could survive
by Drew Rowsome - Photos by Seanna Kennedy
Grace Jones would never lie. Her book I'll Never Write My Memoirs is only a 'memoir' in the loosest sense of that literary form. Wildly entertaining, occasionally stunningly poetic, and based on the rough outlines of Jones' incredible life and illustrious career, I'll Never Write My Memoirs is something - as she spends pages proclaiming she does with her music - utterly new and unique.
Perhaps the key is in the "as told to" credit. I'll Never Write My Memoirs is like listening to your dotty old aunt reminisce about her glory days: she intimates that shocking things happen but always maintains plausible deniability of any wrongdoing. And she frequently, always fascinatingly but somewhat maddeningly, wanders off topic mid-anecdote into an entirely new self-aggrandizing digression.
There are tantalizing paragraphs like,
Trevor [Horn] had called because he really needed me to get down to the studio a few blocks away and add some vocals so he could check that he had cracked the rhythm problem - he called just as I was setting fire to Dolph's trousers. I was in a very bad mood. Trevor said, "I need you now, please get down here." The studio was only fifteen minutes away from my apartment. It wasn't like I had to cross the Atlantic. I made it three days later.
The passage is particularly amusing as it follows several pages of Jones explaining why her notorious habit of being late is a misconception: it is always someone else's fault or a deliberate tactic to build suspense. And then she describes being casually late for a concert because she was watching tennis. Dolph, and his wardrobe, disappear from the narrative again, the spotlight is on Grace.
Jones writes/talks movingly of her Jamaican childhood and the abuse and religious fervour that scarred her and helped shape her persona. That conventional narrative of an unconventional early life does not last. From there on in I'll Never Write My Memoirs skips through time and space with wild but always compelling abandon.
The gossipy sections are surprisingly the weakest and Jones is as coy and contradictory about her sex life as she is about her drug use. The best tidbit is when she describes a photo shoot arranged by BFFs Andy Warhol and Keith Haring with the intention of getting Dolph Lundgren naked so they could assess his endowment. The descriptions of her time at Studio 54 and The Garage are fascinating but skimpy on dirt (she references a night where she sat between Divine and Woody Allen but that is it for what is surely at least an anecdote).
Jones has intriguing things to say about race, gender, sexuality, AIDS, disco, modeling and especially the creation of music. Her vivisection of modern pop divas, and of the word 'diva' itself, has already been quoted everywhere and it is a wonderful read, full of vitriol and sass. The entire book is a great read and while not an actual memoir, it is an absorbing portrait of an extraordinary person staking her claim to diva and artist status. And her advice, her solutions to problems, are self-help on steroids - a regime only she could survive.