MOON UNIT ZAPPA
THE FATES OF 70S ROCK STAR offspring are often as unfortunate as their monikers. Once considered something of a curio. a convenient celebrity accessory to be wheeled out for publicity stunts and embarrassing photo opportunities. rock children tend to grow up to shun the limelight altogether (any idea what Rolan Bolan‘s up to these days‘.’). Certain tragic figures have met as untimely an end as their famous forebear (Tim Buckley). Some have committed the ultimate adolescent rebellion by opting fora life of conventional normality (Zowie Bowie allegedly changed his name to ‘Joe’) while others have attempted to emulate their parents‘ career with limited success (Julian and Sean Lennon).
Yet. for all the potential pitfalls of having sprung from the seed of perhaps the most determinedly iconoclastic rocker of them all. debut novelist Moon L'nit Zappa now seems to be a pretty sussed individual. Not that it hasn‘t been an uphill struggle for the daughter of the late Frank Zappa. whose lengthy ‘sonic mutilation' compositions must surely have interfered with young Moon‘s homework (not to mention her eardrums.) Craving normality for most of her childhood. the shy. retiring Moon grew up resenting her loving. free-thinking. eccentric parents.
Several hundred sessions of therapy later and Zappa now seems reconciled with her upbringing. and is currently living with her boyfriend in the street she was born in. ‘l-laving grown up in Los Angeles. it is very easy for me to see what is truly awful about this place.‘ she tells me. ‘However. at the heart of every crap encounter is an accelerated opportunity for growth and humour. so my book really is a celebration of the worst that California has to offer. be it a bad date. a bad therapist or a bad mystic.’
The book in question is xINI(’I'l(‘(I The Beautiful. the plot and central character of which might appear strangely familiar. Struggling to cope with the death of her famous father. America Throne is dumped by her boyfriend by fax. These events conspire to send America on a hugely entertaining path of self-discovery.
While it's tempting to see much of Zappa’s own life in the experiences of
her heroine. the author. who‘ll be appearing at the Book Festival this week. insists that her work be read on its own terms. ‘I hate that people call this book an autobiographical novel.‘ she says. ‘If it was going to be autobiographical. I would have made
18 THE llST FESTIVAL GUIDE 104 7 Aug 2000
America‘s "father" a rock star and die of cancer. Also. people tend to inaccurately imagine what my wild life must have been like. and as a result find this book too tame; so even if I were to write my autobiography I think people would be disappointed. At the end of the day it is only a story about a break—up. with an oddish family as a backdrop. Nothing too earth—shattering.'
Warm. funny and im menser compelling. America The Beautiful establishes its author as a literary talent to be reckoned with. And. having begun the novel without so much as a game plan. Zappa claims to have learned much from the process of writing and the behaviour of her heroine. ‘What I mainly gleaned from America‘s horrors was a new way to behave around depression. She is a total moper -— me a few years ago — and after hanging out with her. I now see that you must do something. anything. when you are down.‘
As well as writing a regular magazine column and dashing out the occasional novel. the sickeningly talented Zappa is also a successful television and film actress. comedienne. singer and sculptor. Her performing credits. which range from the sublime to the ridiculous. include guest starring in an episode of
After years spent living in the shadow of her legendary father, MOON UNIT ZAPPA is now attracting attention for her first novel. Words: Allan Radcliffe
Zappa donW preach
Roseanne. while she and dad even duetted on the 80s hit Valle-v Girl. So. having tried pretty much everything. and with so many strings to her bow. does she have a preference?
‘Writing seems to suit me best so far because I can be everything — the actor. writer. cinematographer. editor. director and producer — all in one.‘ she laughs. ‘Plus. I like wearing no make- up and sleeping in and wearing silly costumes "in character" and not leaving my house. It is also the most difficult and thus rewarding thing to master.‘
Yet. despite Zappa’s protestation that variety is an accident and that it is in fact constancy she craves. it’s difficult to imagine such an eclectic. restless talent settling willingly to one discipline. ‘My unintentional goal seems to be to try everything in the arts at least once and to then cross it off the list.” she admits. ‘Writing. producing. starring in and directing a movie is coming up on my list here very soon.‘
Watch this space.
Moon Unit Zappa (Book) Charlotte Square Gardens, 624 5050, 12 Aug, 5pm, £7.50 (£5.50).
America The Beautiful is published by Review on 17 Aug, priced £7.99.