Donna Gaines, a writer perched between academia and journalism who has staked her life and career on rock' n' roll, knows the drugs don't work. Or the booze. Or, she now realizes, the sugar. "I've been off it since July," she says. This is definitely not the woman who careens through most of her memoir, A Misfit's Manifesto (Villard), which bears this self-portrait: "Hello, I'm Donna...a bourbon-guzzling, pill-popping, penis-addicted workaholic. But above all, a sugar-fiending cookie whore. I'd almost always rather have that bag of Nantuckets."

If like me, you're drawn to confessions of love for loud guitars, Pepperidge Farm's finest and the Man upstairs, this is your sort of tell-all; if you have a low tolerance for astrology or fits of self- congratulation, then this isn't--but you'll miss out on a slyly poignant one-woman social history of postwar America. Gaines, whose previous book, Teenage Wasteland, is considered a classic study of alienated suburban youth, writes here about American dreams deferred and defeated, and music is the metaphor she uses to bear witness to the damage done. The heroin-laced glam-punk thrashed out by Gaines's friends and lovers gives the lie to the Gershwin tunes once trilled by her songbird mother in Hollywood-and in turn disintegrates into the death metal Gaines immersed herself in during middle-aged exile on Long Island. But there's a happy ending: Much to her surprise, Gaines has found God. "I'm a Buddheo-Christian," Gaines jokes, somewhat protective of her new found peace-which is also, she says, her next Big Topic. "You know, if you asked me about my sex life, I wouldn't be blushing as much."

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