Wednesday, April 01, 2009

This is a review I wrote that was supposed to run in 360 Magazine last year, but then it, yeah. Here it is in a much cooler, financially stable context. (This blog will not go bankrupt, I promise you that).

The Hypocrisy of Disco by Clane Hayward

Most twelve-year-old girls think their mothers are crazy, but Clane Hayward had real reason to doubt her mother's sanity when she moved them out of their dilapitated cabin and into the middle of a California redwood forest to avoid paying rent. She didn't believe in landlords, because "no one can really own the land. The land abides and we will live on it by the grace of God."

The Hypocrisy of Disco is Hayward's memoir of her tumultuous twelfth year. Born in San Francisco in 1967, "just before the Summer of Love," to H'lane, a deeply weird, perpetually stoned hippie earth mother, and Claude, a part-time trucker who is rarely around, Clane is a flower child who longs to live a normal life "where everything has a regularness and sameness."

"Nothing in my life moves in a straight line," muses Clane. In the redwood forest with her mother, her brother Haud and half-sister Ki, Clane's bedroom is a tarp stretched on the ground at the base of a tree. Next, the family relocates to a field near Monte Rio, California, then to an abandoned ranch, and later to a tent just outside a trailer park. Clane is never quite clear on the reasons for their unorthodox lifestyle. "(Mom) says it's because she's a gypsy. I have pictures in my head of all the places I've ever lived, and some of them don't make any sense to me."

Feeling lonely and isolated, Clane finds solace in C.S. Lewis books and her own imaginings of a fantasy life where she lives in a house, sleeps in a real bed, and has a mother who makes her cucumber sandwiches and lets her paint her toenails.

Despite the inherent tragedy of a young girl spending a significant part of her childhood homeless, Hayward's book never feels like a downer, and there are moments of real joy, like when she sneaks off to a friend's trailer to eat junk food and watch The Muppet Show ("The Muppet Show is the greatest thing I have ever seen."). Later the same friend takes her to the roller rink, where Clane marvels at the colored lights, the mirrored ball and the thumping disco music: "My heart is pounding as we rent skates and change into them and glide, a little clumsy at first, onto the rink and pause at the fence to look at everyone going by and then....we fling ourselves, whooping, into the thick of the skaters on the rink, arms flailing, hair flying."

The Hypocrisy of Disco is a fascinating read that needs a sequel, or at least a continuation. By the concluding scene—-Clane's thirteenth birthday party--I was satisfied, but itching to know more. What was Clane’s adolescence like? How did she go from rambling California vagabond to Texas middle school teacher (as the author's book sleeve bio indicates)? One can only hope that Ms. Hayward has more books inside of her; a life like hers begs more volumes.