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THE LAST LIVING SLUT
In the tradition of 70’s uber-groupie Pamela Des Barres, Roxana Shirazi tells in lurid and nasty detail of her experiences bed and tour bus hopping throughout the noughties with rockers and rollers, leaving no laminate unturned in her seemingly delusional quest for happiness.
Roxana’s foreword confidently declares her mission statement – “in this book I am the last living ‘slut’ embodying the negative meanings of the word, and the first living ‘slut’ embodying a new, positive and celebrated meaning of the word.”
The book starts with the author’s childhood in Iran – a childhood stolen by war, sexual confusion, molestation, an absent father, beatings from a stepfather and more, making for harrowing and fascinating reading.
Fast forward to teenagehood in England and poverty, foster families and bullying follow, all contributing to the cliché most of us would expect from a groupie or sex worker – poor little neglected girl, abused from a young age, with major Daddy issues.
It’s not long before Roxana has caught the eye of some young bands, touring with Towers Of London and Avenged Sevenfold for a while before graduating to the bigger league with Guns n’ Roses’ Dizzy Reed.
Despite the fascinating chapters describing her Iranian upbringing, and the detailed glimpse into the world of backstage hard rock shenanigans – two worlds I for one will never see, much less from Ms Shirazi’s perspective – it is with her relationship with Reed that the book really falls flat on it’s face.
Whilst I completely agree with her that the hypocrisy accorded to women who sleep around for fun is terrible, and wish more power to her for attempting to debunk that as she traipses through a succession of backstage dressing rooms and hotel rooms in England, Canada and The States with a veritable who’s who of 80’s and more recent hair rockers, the problem here is that Shirazi talks the talk about being hard as nails, glorifying herself as a “slut” (in the new, positive and celebrated meaning of the word), but she is just as hypocritical as the slutty rockers she denigrates throughout the book for their lack of tenderness.
In a nutshell, the human interest sub plot of the book is that boy – Dizzy Reed - meets groupie, groupie falls for boy, who then gets her pregnant and insists she terminate the pregnancy. Groupie cries a lot, wondering why he won’t treat her with respect and provide support. Groupie stalks guy just a little bit, then ekes out revenge by “doing” most of the members from guy’s other band, and other bands guy doesn’t like. Guy gets really angry and calls groupie names. Groupie seemingly can’t understand why guy is treating her so badly, despite all she says and does.
I’m not unsympathetic to her plight – I just feel that she is obviously an intelligent and educated woman who should know the likelihood of meeting your soul mate backstage at a sweaty gig when the band are full of coke and booze watching you entertain a roomful of people by dildo-ing yourself to a gushing ejaculation, after having slept with several of his bandmates and wanting to do the rest of them and maybe half the support band too… well, it’s as likely as Axl getting the original Gunners back together for an album and tour, isn’t it.
She willingly offers herself up as a plaything for these guys – sometimes for their entire bands and some of the crew – then criticises them for the nonchalance with which they use her as a plaything.
She also repeatedly she does exactly the same thing. In one hotel she wanders off for a while from the band she is with and “does” one or more of the support band – oh how the headliners laughed at her for that slip in etiquette! Whilst in Canada with Dizzy Reed she continually plots how to attract Axl Rose’s eye, and also gets herself a bit of Sebastian Bach. Implying one rocker is a wuss because he doesn’t want to finish the job due to the blood from her abortion 2 days prior running down her leg is another confusing (and harrowing) chapter.
If you’re going to rail against hypocrisy, then don’t be such a hypocrite!
But we’re not here to review the person, we’re here to review the book – Shirazi has a masters in English, and it is undeniably an interesting read, but the never ending wishy washy sentiments of “oh I love him” after being with a new rocker for a day or two show her up to be the confused little girl with relationship and affection issues which she so obviously is.
I actually find her antics, when empowered and confident, fantastic – I’ve done things which would make the majority (though doubtless, not the author!) blush, and do not suffer the narrow mindedness of thinking that only guys should be allowed to be promiscuous.
“The Last Living Slut”s greatest downfall is that its message is confused and contradictory. Is she recommending this sexual freedom or admitting that emotions will always get the better of us weak humans?
The end of the book, however, does offer an explanation for her confusing duality throughout, but it’s not enough to save this book from ending up almost as a teenage girl’s fantasy diary – albeit a very well written one. In fact it’s the evocative and descriptive prose here which saves the book, and any future scribblings by Shirazi will doubtless be well worth a read for that alone, though we'll certainly be hoping for better plotting and pace next time.
Perhaps some exploration of the motivations of the other girls ploughing the same groupie furrows would enlighten - if not the readers, then the author herself - as to why the rock stars she so adores have treated her the way they have.
Ms Shirazi lectures on gender issues and feminism and I wonder if, upon reading this review, she would argue that my criticisms are typical of a male’s ignorance of female emotional understanding, or some such thing. Maybe so, but whilst I really enjoyed her prose, and am glad I have read the book, large passages simply went on too long and were too contradictory and plotless to be able to laud this book as anything other than what many of it’s chapters describe in a detail which is overly anxious to shock – a one night stand in a dingy backstage room, and nowhere near a long term relationship.