by Jen Trynin; New York, Harcourt Trade Publishers, 2006, 355 pages, $23
Dr. Fisher is affiliated with the department of psychiatry of the Center for Mental Health Services Research at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester.
Success as a rock star seems an appealing if elusive goal for many young people. For every Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, or Neil Young, thousands of "wannabees" will never make it out of the clubs in their town. But a handful of youthful artists do succeed, get recording contracts, tour, and become famous. Some will be told that they are the "next big thing," and they actually are, albeit briefly, and fall out of fashion only when the "next big thing" comes along. These casualties of the music business are persons in their twenties who suddenly face the need to redefine themselves, often after a monomaniacal obsession with rock stardom. Some make a successful transition. But others hang on as local celebrities in a kind of rock purgatory and try to eke out a living as musicians without the money and fame but with some of the same undesirable trappings of the music business—unstable relationships and substance abuse.
In the 1970s I played in a band that achieved a degree of local success and was signed to a recording contract, only to find out a week after the signing that our "guy" had been fired. The band broke up a few months later. We all emerged relatively intact, but we had some musician friends whose landings were not as soft. The diverse life trajectories of this peer group, all of whom failed to realize their youthful goals, offer a study in individual resiliency and vulnerability. Unfortunately, the behavioral sciences have not taken advantage of such experiences in their efforts to understand how persons cope with failure and disappointment.
Everything I'm Cracked Up To Be could be a first contribution to literature in this area. It is the first-person account of Jen Trynin, a singer-songwriter who experiences a meteoric rise to stardom and an equally rapid fall from fashion during the mid-1990s. Trynin writes catchy, angst-filled tunes that resonate with young adults. When a self-produced CD becomes a local hit, record executives and promoters swarm over her. She is signed, is sent on tour, is written up in Rolling Stone magazine, and achieves modest financial success. But when a second CD fails to ignite, her record label and agent lose interest. She returns home from touring exhausted and questions her priorities and abilities. Ultimately, she decides she could live without the music business, refreshes a long-standing romantic relationship, and has a baby. Some of her associates, however, including her drummer and bassist, seem cast adrift. Their emotional and personal resources are less viable and their futures uncertain.
This book is not written from a psychological perspective, obviously, but is nonetheless full of self-insight and frank self-disclosures, including descriptions of her excesses with alcohol and concerns about self-image. Personally, I wish she had explored her emotional transition from rock star to wife and mother a bit more fully. But hopefully this book will prompt others with similar experiences to share their stories. These accounts should be of particular interest to anyone interested in resiliency and coping in young adults.