Book notes: “Scars of Sweet Paradise”

“Scars of Sweet Paradise: The Life and Times of Janis Joplin,” by Alice Echols

Very good bio of Janis, well conveys the transition between the folk/beatnik early Sixties and the rock/hippie High Sixties (a transition that Janis herself experienced). Things that stick with me are:

-the idea of the “Saturday Night Swindle,” which Janis heard from her father: “…about how you hear over and over that if you work real hard, you’ll go out Saturday night and have a really good time. And everybody lives for that good time, but it never really happens.”

-that Mnasidika, one of the first hip businesses in Haight-Ashbury, was originally intended as a store for lesbians. Due to lack of lesbians in the neighborhood, it switched focus to hippies.

-From Linda Gravenites, one of the best one-sentence summaries of the Haight I’ve ever heard: “Up until then [1967], people came because they were full to overflowing and were sharing their fullness. After that, it was the empties who came, wanting to be filled.”

The story of Janis herself is very sad, a cautionary tale of wanting fame and getting it. The main testimony to Echols’s abilities as a biographer is that you want to reach into the page and give Janis a hug, to comfort her. But it’s far too late for that.

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