I have to admit that I know very little about the band The Fall. So, I approached Brix Smith Start’s memoir, The Rise, The Fall, and the Rise with some concern. I questioned if I would be able to relate to her time in this long-running British act. But if a memoir is well written, the subject matter can be easily understood and related to. (Think Patti Smith’s Just Kids.) What I found with Start’s book was an overabundance of information and anecdotes. The Rise… is a tome, coming in at 455 pages.
Start literally writes of her entire life, starting with her birth in 1962 and everything that came after. She shares her upbringing, including her parents’ divorce, her father’s many marriages, and the shuffling between family members in Chicago and Los Angeles. She goes to Bennington College in Vermont, but eventually drops out and returns to Chicago to live with her mother and step-father. At the time she was very much into The Fall. After running into Mark E. Smith (who pretty much is The Fall) at their Chicago show, Start finds herself in love and moves to Manchester, England, to be with him. Soon the two are married and Start joins the band full time.
After a tumultuous time in The Fall (and her divorce from Smith), Start looks for ways to reinvent herself: solo musician, actress, fashion designer, and television personality. She’s constantly finding ways to succeed, often relying on her connections to give her a boost. She tells of meeting world-famous musicians and British royalty. The more she tells of her experiences, the harder it is to entirely sympathize. The lifestyle Start lived was—with the exception of her years in The Fall—decidedly un-punk.
While there were enjoyable, interesting stories in the book, there is no reason it has to be this lengthy. I couldn’t help but wonder, “Where was the editor with this?” Why didn’t anyone tell Start that there wasn’t a reason to include a page’s worth of description of the food available at the Friars’ Club in Beverly Hills? Why were there pages upon pages of material written about her pugs? While I understand that they are important to her, they don’t drive the memoir or serve as a primary theme in the book.
If I’m to gather it correctly, the book is primarily about Start’s ability to reinvent herself when faced with large challenges. That’s perfectly well and good. However, that theme needs to be the focus of the memoir. That should guide the work. Given its bloated page count and excess information, that’s unfortunately how I felt about this book: fairly pointless. –Kurt Morris (Faber & Faber, 74-77 Great Russell St., London, England, WC1B 3DA)