University and the freshers’ activities that come with it have completely taken over my life, but I have however still had the time to finish at least one book. I saw this in the bookstore and immediately knew I had to buy it – I’m talking about And I don’t want to live this life by Deborah Spungen AKA the book about the infamous Nancy Spungen.
(The Finnish translation of the book is for some reason called just Nancy)
I have been utterly fascinated by the chaotic relationship between Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols and Nancy ever since I had somewhat of a punk-phase in high school. Obviously Sex Pistols were one of the first punk bands I found out about, although I quite frankly only ever listened to about two of their songs consistently. Their image however – their attitudes, the way they dressed, how they basically didn’t give a fuck – simply consumed me, even though their “image” was completely fabricated my Malcolm McLaren.
Sid and Nancy were to a part at the center of this, but nothing fulfilled my need for information like this book. I feel like I finally understand Nancy, and that mainly makes me feel bad for all of her family, but especially her mum. Sure, I watched the movie they made about Sid and Nancy, and although it was a good movie, it didn’t really paint neither Sid or Nancy as the people they really were – just like John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) points out in his book Anger Is An Energy. And to be honest, I always thought the “film-Nancy” was somewhat an exaggerated version of who she truly was, but having now read the book I actually think it might be the opposite. They portrayed Nancy very accurately in the film – previously I thought the outbursts in the film were sort of played up, to make the film more Hollywoodized – but as it turns out they were very spot on, and some of the uglier bits of her personality were completely left out in the film.
*warning: spoilers ahead*
In this raw and honest book, Nancy’s mother Deborah depicts what life was like with Nancy from day one. The chronological order of events made Nancy’s progression to who she eventually became in the public eye easy to follow, and it made you realise that there was a whole lot of shit going on in Nancy’s life prior to Sid and the Sex Pistols. It’s obvious from the start that she was a really disturbed young girl, and that she actually, truly wanted to die from a young age.
I think that’s what caused her recklessness – she wasn’t afraid to die, and dying might in fact have been her ultimate goal. She was painfully unhappy and clearly a very tortured soul, which was probably partly brought on by the fact that she was very intelligent, with a higher IQ than average. This doesn’t change the fact that she was quite horrible to her family most of the time. She manipulated them so that everything revolved around her and she always got her way. If she didn’t get her way, ie. when they were going on a family outing and it was her sister’s turn to decide where they’d go, Nancy would throw a fit and lash out at her sister, quite horribly so, until they just decided to go with what Nancy wanted as that was easier for everyone.
Growing up in the same house as Nancy must’ve been horrible for her siblings. She treated them both, especially her sister, like garbage. She was both physically and emotionally abusive towards both of them, but as she was their older sister they did still look up to her in some twisted way. Nancy’s physical abuse towards people didn’t end there; on one occasion she violently attacked her mother with a hammer, another time she attacked a psychiatrist in their office because of a simple question they asked. Nancy was like a ticking time bomb. There was no telling what would set her off into a fit of rage.
I absolutely loved the book, even though it made me kind of hate Nancy. I understand that she struggled with mental illness, and there were complications when she was born which may have cause a neurological issue, but at the end of the day she was absolutely awful to the people who loved her the most. The press’ depictions of her still aren’t accurate, they paint her as a monster, when really she just did whatever she could to cope and to shock people. Maybe she just wasn’t meant for this world, maybe she just couldn’t be at peace here.
I’d recommend this book to anyone who is interested in knowing more about Nancy, but also to anyone interested in raising a child with issues and the struggle of being a mother when nothing you do is ever good enough.