You Must Go and Win

January 01, 1970

(Faber & Faber)

 

www.fsgbooks.com

 

BY JOHN SCHACHCT

 

Anyone who’s chatted with singer Alina Simone at her gigs won’t be
surprised by the strength of her first foray into the book world. Simone has the
gift of gab, and You Must Go and Win‘s
conversational tone captures her humor, vivacity and intelligence in an
engaging and honest look at an indie musician’s life. Part-memoir and
part-roadmap to the underground music world, the book has an added advantage in
that its subject’s life is not typical. Simone’s scientist parents escaped
Soviet blacklisting in the Ukraine
before emigrating with young Alina, a gift with a shadow that hangs over their comparatively
rudderless daughter. (Simone titled her second LP Placelessness.)

 

Written with clutter-free concision, Simone’s search for meaning reads
pithy and often laugh-out-loud funny. She navigates the signpost-free indie
circuit and a warren of flea-ridden apartments in the overpriced hipster’s
haven Brooklyn. She travels the U.S.
videoing her performance artist pal Amanda Palmer for a documentary that never
materializes, and survives car crashes, rampant machismo and
vegetarian-unfriendly Italian tours. 

 

But Simone’s story pivots on Mother Russia. She becomes obsessed with
the Siberia of her hero – and inspiration for her Russian language covers
record, Everyone is Crying Out to Me,
Beware –
folk punk icon Yana Dyagileva, and among other adventures winds up
baptized into the Eastern Orthodox church. She notes that the mongrel congregation
is really “no different from the passengers on a typical crosstown G train,” and
it’s epiphanies like that that lift this above the average musician memoir.

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