Taryn Hipp’s Heavy Hangs the Head is an intriguing read written by a woman in her mid-thirties who is looking back at her life of alcoholism, feminism, and bad relationships. The small physical dimensions of the book makes it more like a long essay written in memoir style as opposed to a gigantic tome, but that also means that one can read this rather quickly. Hipp is the author of many zines, including the perzine Lady Teeth. The style of the book is written in much the same way as many other perzines: short sections recounting events, written in first person.
Hipp starts the book with stories of her parents, geographic locations of residence, siblings, and the like. It was good to get such background, as these people influenced her life to a great deal. As the tale progresses, she speaks of depression and anxiety that began to hit her in her teens, the anger that came with her parents’ divorce, her introduction to alcohol, and discovering music. It is a story with which many punk rockers and people who didn’t fit in with their peers can identify.
Along the way, Hipp discovers feminism and riot grrrl music. It plays a big impact on opening her eyes to the world. However, she is conflicted with this as she delves into self-destructive behavior where she begins to sleep around with whoever will take her. And she does this a lot. (That’s not my judgment—that’s how she describes it.) She ends up married to a punk rocker much younger than her; one of the few people in her life she feels who cares about her, but years later ends up divorced from him. Hipp goes into this with all of its heart-breaking sadness.
I enjoyed following Hipp’s life. Even though there were many aspects of her life I couldn’t identify with (well, honestly, I don’t have personal knowledge with most of her experiences and I’m also a guy, so I can’t relate to being female and how that shaped her life), I can still appreciate a compelling story. The writing moves the book along at a good clip, and the personal viewpoint can help the reader identify with the author.
There are a few ways in which the story could’ve been strengthened. While I understand the perzine style—having written some of my own—there was an overly heavy reliance on “I” throughout the book. It’s often the downfall of many perzines and it’s a fine line to walk. How much does the author delve into their personal experiences and how much can she or he look outside themselves and paint a compelling, all-encompassing narrative with their prose? While there was some self-analysis, I was often left asking, “Why? Where were these issues and problems coming from?” Perhaps it’s the Freudian in me, but a fuller look at her childhood might’ve allowed for a better understanding of who Hipp became.
There were often times I desired to know more about other people in her life: what did they look like, how did they act, what were their experiences? Providing these details would certainly have made for a longer read, but it would have also strengthened the tale. There are certain occasions where the author recounts specific experiences, but some more examples of this would’ve been great.
Still, the overall story is compelling and ultimately encouraging. Hipp acknowledges her life isn’t perfect, but towards the end of the book one can see her growth and how far she has come compared to where she once was. It made me happy to see her overcome the obstacles that once held her down. It’s always good to see someone come out the other side of their trials and tribulations as a stronger, more content person and seeing that in this book is what made me enjoy it so much. –Kurt Morris (Sweet Candy Press, PO Box 13201, Olympia, WA 98508)