PS Books, 2008. ISBN 978-0-9793350-1-3.
Reviewed by Linda Wisniewski
Posted on 12/08/2008
Fiction: Chick Lit
Who would have thought I'd enjoy a novel about the mid-'90s Philadelphia rock scene? When I first saw a copy of Broad Street, I almost passed it by. What do I have in common with girl grunge, biker gangs, black leather pants and seedy bars?
But I'm glad I gave it a try. Within the pages of Broad Street, I found strong themes to relate to, themes common to most women's lives, past and present: the task of juggling personal and professional life, boring day jobs, and issues with siblings and parents. Okay, not many of us have to search for a steady drummer, but that's one of the things that makes Broad Street an entertaining read. Christine Weiser took me out of my own life and into the world of young women rock musicians.
While I read, I stepped vicariously into the glitz and glamour of the club scene. Then I winced at the smoking, profanity, drug use and crummy boyfriends, not to mention makeshift recording studios in bad neighborhoods. The Philly grunge scene in the '90s was apparently a world of booze, sweat, and tears. And more booze.
Told from the point of view of Kit Greene, medical proofreader by day and bass player by night, Broad Street colorfully paints the Center City and South Philly neighborhoods where edgy rock bands struggle for stage time.
Kit meets guitar-playing vocalist Margo at a party, and reeling from a recent breakup, agrees to meet her to play music and write songs together. Soon they decide to form a band named after the busy Philadelphia thoroughfare while taking a teasing poke at their gender. Their story is one of female empowerment, dressed in rock band details. Humor abounds in oddly-dressed characters, difficult bosses, and bands named Zen Guerilla, The Dildon'ts, and My Pet Rhino.
Kit's back-and-forth relationships with men who dump her after getting what they wanted and her sister Nikki's doomed affair with a married man made me glad I was young many years earlier. But back in the '60s, we had our own dangerous men, and Broad Street kept me rooting for Kit to find happiness on her own.
When Kit's cheating ex-boyfriend calls because he's read about her band in the City Paper, she realizes how far she's come from the girl who depended on him for emotional support.
"I smiled. How many times had I sat alone, drinking myself into a stupor? I pictured Dale with a whiskey bottle and computer mouse...The band that I had started to make Dale miserable had actually made Dale miserable. But Broad Street had become something else, too."
"I know what you're going through," she tells him. "And it sucks. But you'll get through it." And then, she tells the reader, "I floated through the rest of the week...Maybe I would buy a motorcycle."
Christine Weiser is copublisher of the literary magazine, Philadelphia Stories, and managing editor of Tech & Learning. One-time bass player for the Philly girl band, Mae Pang, her current band is The Tights. Broad Street is her first novel. Visit her website.
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