A central agony in these books is alienation—not only the pain of abuse, or heartbreak, or evaporation, but the pain of having your pain appropriated. The books themselves reclaim the hurt for their authors, and whatever their literary merit, they offer at least some catharsis for the reader, who can always relate. Rock songs make heartbreak seem valorous, but it’s more often a state of debasement in which you’d gnaw through the floor to get back what you had.

The books also serve as a caution, maybe a useless one, against letting passion erase us—against falling into the abyss. This resonates particularly with women, whose worth has forever been determined by the men they’re attached to, and whose place in rock and roll, never as liberated as it pretended to be, has been diminished and maligned. But love gets the better of all of us; it’s just that men have more often been the ones to sing about it.

Alexandra Molotkow in The Believer, on the memoirs of rock stars’ exes.

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