BOOK REVIEW FOR: This Is Gonna Hurt
Author: Nikki Sixx
Who Are You: a modern-day Renaissance man
Do Ya Think I’m Sexy: both in print and in person, a resounding yes
Le’ts Give Them Something To Talk About: the state of the Crüe
Paperback Writer: no holds barred
Add It Up: truly a delightful surprise
What’s the Story, Morning Glory?
So, as the title of his previous book, The Heroin Diaries, would suggest, Nikki Sixx once had an very serious substance abuse problem, and is now a recovering drug addict. But he’s also many other things. A member of a successful rock ‘n roll band, a photographer with a unique & creative aesthetic, and a seriously really good writer to boot. The thing that strikes me the most about his writing is the fact that he literally puts it all out there — the good, the bad, and the ugly. He talks in depth of his struggles with addiction and depression, his self-destructive behavior and bouts of despair…but also the joy in his life and the beauty that he sees all around him on a daily basis. His style of writing reads as someone who has gone through some pretty intense soul-searching (and many years of therapy), and the journey he is on, towards self-actualization, is apparent on literally every page. There are some battle scars there, and he doesn’t hide them — but he seems to have been able to use the lessons learned from negative experiences to flourish as both an artist and a person.
Who Are You?
One of the things I love about this book is the visual aspect of it. It is partly a memoir, and partly a book of photographic images. It would be an understatement to say that Sixx has a touch of the macabre within him. Many of his photos are dark, slightly demented, gothic and beautiful. He writes throughout the book of how he has always been interested in capturing the beauty and value in what others consider ugly:
“It’s not always easy to get the person on the other side of the camera to see what I see. When I am doing a shoot with someone, I spend as much time talking to them as I do taking pictures. I want to know everything so I can make the moment honest. These people have been told over and over that they’re bad and ugly. That they’re not perfect like us. They’ve been pointed at and laughed at since childhood. Life can be cruel. It’s been my struggle, my personal battle, my obsession to make people see that different isn’t always bad”.
While reading This Is Gonna Hurt I was struck by the many, MANY activities and hobbies Nikki has going on in his life, from being a musician in not one but two rock bands, to touring, taking photos, writing and publishing books, hosting a radio show, designing a clothing line, raising a family (he has four kids, y’all!)…and the list goes on. This is why I referred to him at the beginning of this review as a modern-day Renaissance man. The sheer level of energy that must be required for getting all that stuff done is impressive. I was really inspired by the tremendous amount of effort he focuses towards personal evolution and growth, and how he is constantly pushing himself further, even when it’s difficult, or painful, or inconvenient. The overarching theme throughout the book is how we have to push ourselves – both physically and psychologically — to seek out purpose in our lives. The answers don’t just get handed to you.
Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?
I’ve always loved Nikki, from the early Mötley Crüe days:
through to present-day Nikki:
Even during the glam-rock eyeliner and spandex years, he’s always struck me as having a very…male presence, y’know? Maybe it’s because he’s so tall, or the square jaw…I dunno, but his looks have always seemed to register with me, and when I saw him in person I definitely felt it. At the same time, he comes across as a pretty sensitive, soulful dude. Whether he was always this way or whether it’s due to years of therapy and self-analysis, who knows, but it’s hot.
And you guys. Oh my god. When he talks about Kat von D and their relationship…let me just say, I normally expect to get my swoons from YA lit, thank you very much, and not from rock star bios, but…holy hell, is it ever sexy when a guy wears his heart on his sleeve like this. I know they’re not together any more (seriously, Jesse James?) but just check out this passage:
“…then it happened, by accident. We were walking toward the theater, and my hand somehow landed in hers. That uncomfortable feeling of “What is (he or she) doing?” blushed over us. It felt like fire running up the inside of my arm, and I took the pain, excitement, or confusion in one full gulp. Down the hatch, smoke shooting out of my ears, and eyes rolling around in the back of my head like black marbles.
Oh, shit, said my heart, now what?”
Let’s Give Them Something To Talk About
One thing I was not expecting was the frankness with which he talks about his fellow Crüe bandmates. He doesn’t hide the fact that they have become pretty estranged over the years, which I suppose isn’t all that shocking in and of itself, but he describes it the same way he covers everything else in his life, i.e. in his signature putting-it-all-out-there style. For example:
“The one thing I hope Vinnie knows before Mötley Crüe drops to its knees and dies, blood staining the stage as we wave good-bye for the last time, is that nobody has loved him as deeply as I have. I hope he can feel that someday. But that day is not today. He doesn’t even know where I live”.
I love it. It’s refreshingly candid, and it made me wonder what the other guys thought when they read it…if they did, in fact, read it.
I’ve heard Nikki talk about the positive responses he’s received for his books (both this one and Heroin Diaries), describing letters and e-mails from readers telling him how he’s really touched them and helped them with their own struggles. I think it’s comforting for people to read about a public figure experiencing some of the same shit that they themselves are going through. Not in a “ha, let’s delight in his misfortune to make ourselves feel better” kind of way (although I’m sure there are people like that out there as well) but more in the sense that it’s not often that the mask of celebrity falls to the side and we get to see the real person underneath. In allowing this to happen through his writing, Nikki is inviting people to relate to him, even if they’ve never met him. Reading this book, I felt like I could identify with so much of what he was saying. I mean, it’s true, I don’t know what it’s like to wrestle with a drug or alcohol addiction. But the struggles that he talks about, to stay positive and focused, and not to let anger or despair overwhelm you at times…I get it. The experience of struggling to overcome your demons is pretty universal, but it’s too often a solitary pursuit. I know from experience what a relief it can be when you find other people out there dealing with the same issues as you and willing to share their insights. Sometimes just knowing that you’re not alone is enough to keep you going.
And dang, you guys, he’s a GOOD writer! He’s funny, and poignant, and honest. It’d be tough for anyone to open themselves up to judgement to the extent that he does. What’s his motivation? I think it’s twofold. First of all, there’s something truly freeing about being open with your deepest and darkest thoughts and feelings. Once you’ve put it all out there, there’s nothing left to be afraid of. Secondly, I really believe him when he says that he wants to help others:
“I’m writing this book partly in hopes that I will move somebody to pick up a camera, write a poem, pen a song, or take a shot at any other dream. I have always said “If you can dream it, you can have it.” In my heart, I’m wishing that these musings might motivate someone somewhere to do great things.”
Add It Up
As I mentioned in my write-up of meeting Nikki, it was just by chance that I happened to open an e-mail from my bookstore informing me that his new book had hit the shelves and that he was making a personal appearance the very next day. Thinfinn and I made a spur-of-the-moment decision to go and get our copies signed. Without this e-mail it probably would have taken me a while longer to get around to reading and reviewing This Is Gonna Hurt (my TBR list is a mile long right now) so I am happy it arrived when it did. The book really struck a chord with me, at a time that I needed some personal inspiration. I have always suspected that books, much like people, come into your life when you need them, and this little experience has definitely reinforced that belief!
C’mon, how could I NOT? 😉 But seriously, it is a really good book.
All quoted passages are from This Is Gonna Hurt: Music, Photography, and Life Through the Distorted Lens of Nikki Sixx, HarperCollins Publishers, New York, 2011.