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Nana (contains spoilers through Volume 15)

May 6, 2009

I liked Nana a lot to begin with, but there were things about it that I dealt with visually better than by reading.  That is, when I watched the movie, I got a better sense of Nana O and Ren.  So when I delved back into the books, around Volume 6, it was a whole new world, one that I feel into easily.

Another reason for that is because I’m the daughter of a rock musician.  I spent my entire childhood, like Nana K does for a portion of the title, on the outskirts of something big.  Always, something big was about to happen: a record deal or, after that happened, fame.  And I was going to be along for the ride, albeit in the backseat.  But for us, the “fame” part never really materialized.  I watched my father’s band get a record deal, then nothing.  I saw him go to another band, where we were sure nepotism was going to rocket them to stardom.  (The singer of the band was Jon Bon Jovi’s cousin.)  I watched them make their first video, and I was even in it, if you don’t blink.  There was a crazy energy.  We heard the song on the radio once or twice.  We watched the video get mentioned on MTV News–and saw it TWICE on Remote Control!–once as a question, and one in the final round.  But…then everything fizzled.  There was no great tour where they gained an audience by opening for someone more popular.  There was no follow-up CD to build on what little attention they were getting.  My dad watched his friends in the local music scene become famous* and was left behind.

So, in a way, Nana is the fulfillment to me of what I assumed my childhood would be like.  I would be surrounded by stars.  I would live somewhere fabulous**.  My dad would go on tours.  I would go with him in the summers when I didn’t have school.  I wanted be able to buy every book ever–okay I didn’t think that, but I sure am thinking it now.  I totally WOULD’VE bought every book ever.  I would’ve gotten the Last Vampire series instead of reading it on the shelves at the K-Mart during breaks.  I would’ve hunted down the last Hart & Soul book.  I really need to snark those.  I mean, his name was MICHAEL SOULTAIRE OR SOMETHING.  THAT’S A STUPID NAME.

But back to Nana.  I knew, even when I was little, the cost of fame.  My dad was constantly surrounded by girls–pretty but vacant girls who tried to bribe my sister and I to gain my father’s affections.  (Mostly my sister, because I grew up with my mom.)  Or ugly girls who thought they were better than the bimbos because they didn’t throw themselves at anyone, but were more DEDICATED.  They were about the music or something.  My dad rolled his eyes at them behind their backs.  They were the butt of jokes.  There were guys too, insecure guys, some that people thought might be secretly gay, who may have been friends with my dad but maybe not.

And you do meet possibly powerful and sorta famous people, but all they do is remind you that you’re not there yet.  They’re as far beyond you as you are from the bimbos and the ugly fangirls.  You also watch people less talented progress when you or your loved ones don’t, and that makes you bitter.

When Nana moved beyond a taste of fame into pure stardom, I lost something.  I couldn’t connect anymore, but I understood it.  It’s one of the reasons I let my writing go–I didn’t want to be published, I didn’t want to be KNOWN.  I didn’t want the bimbos and the ugly girls and the insecure guys and the people who remind you that for any level of fame you achieve, there’s someone above you, and they’re probably not that happy with it either.  I don’t sing in public even though I love to sing.  I never played any instruments that weren’t classical in nature.  I was afraid.  I still am.

To not be afraid, that’s something amazing, and you have to have something needy in you to do it.  That’s why I enjoyed the Nana movie so much–you could see it in Nana O so much easier than in the book, the broken person who has a desperate desire to be loved.  (Another fear: becoming THAT person, who needs all that validation.)  I’ve known a lot of musicians over the years, and so many of them truly love music, but…being that person in front, it’s all about being loved.  Needing to be loved.  Needing to be told, shown, as much as possible.  Channeling need through art.  It’s scary.

The book does it so well.

As Nana O is breaking down–and I believe she is–nothing that she’s been through in the past couple volumes have been good to her.  Yasu even says that she was more independent, not less, before their fame.  (He means before him, but it’s not only about him.  It’s also about Ren, and about Nana K, and losing Nana K’s constant validation as well.)  With money, housing, and a sort of stability, although a crazy musical world stability, the characters are faltering more than they ever did before they made it big.  Emotionally, they’re messes: Nobu’s with a chick who’s completely damaged, Shin can’t figure out which part of love is the adult part, Yasu’s trying to rationalize romantic decisions because he’s so damned irrational about Nana, and Nana…is a complete mess.  At this point, she’s supposed to be happy and stable in her relationship, and all she wants to do is drink herself to oblivion and mourn the loss of her greatest supporter.  Ren’s so far from healthy himself that I can’t even begin to get it.  We don’t get a lot of time in his head, but it’s pretty obvious that he hasn’t progressed emotionally too far from where he was at the start of the books.  He still buys into Nana O’s drama, maybe even more than she does.

It’s fascinating, that the world is supposed to be at their feet, but they’re boxed in, almost literally at times, and it’s so small.  It would make me happy that my dad never made it that far, except that NOT making it that far comes with its own damage.

To say that Nana is a very personal book for me would be an overstatement.  There are aspects of it that mirror things I’ve seen my whole life, but primarily I love it as a drama, and as a character study.  I hope that by the end, the characters come through in healthier places, but in that kind of claustrophobic fishbowl, who knows.

Also, I hope my library has already ordered Volume 16.

*Dad was buddies with Skid Row, and it’s a shirt for my father’s band that Sebastian Bach wears in the “18 and Life” video.  One of my dad’s old bands was called The New Dogs, and the guy shirts said “I’m a Dog,” the women’s shirts said “I’m a Bitch,” and the kids’ shirts said “I’m a Puppy.”  Guess which one I wanted and which one I had?  Also, guess how many times I got to meet them?  None.  😦  My sister hung out with them a bit though.  Boo hiss.  If I met Sebastian Bach now, though, I’d be all “Can you sign my Gilmore Girls box set next to Grant Lee Phillips’s signature?”
**There’s this convent in central shore Jersey.  If you know the area, you know what I’m talking about.  My dad talked about buying that, and some other place too that was very white.  Can’t remember what that was, though.
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