Reviews

No Regrets

Michael Hayward

I remember singing along with, and laughing at, the lyrics to “The Swimming Song” from Kate and Anna McGarrigle’s eponymous 1976 album: “This summer I swam in a public place / And a reservoir to boot / At the latter I was informal / At the former I wore my suit / I wore my swimming suit.” That album, and the ones which followed, made me a loyal, long-term McGarrigles fan. I bought all their albums and I’d see them whenever they came to town, which was never often enough. What I did not know back then was that those witty lyrics had been penned by Loudon Wainwright III, Kate’s husband at the time. And although their marriage didn’t last, the musical partnership endured; you can hear the result on albums like The McGarrigle Hour from 1998, whose liner notes made me want to be adopted into that messy extended family. Kate and Loudon’s children, Rufus and Martha, have continued in the family business to great acclaim, and now their daughter Martha has written a memoir, Stories I Might Regret Telling You (Penguin Random House), which brings back McGarrigle and Wainwright’s memories—both delightful and sad (Martha’s account of her mother Kate’s death from cancer is particularly painful to relive). Among Martha’s own recordings is a live album of Edith Piaf covers, Sans Fusils, Ni Souliers, à Paris, but it’s harder than you think to live by Piaf’s maxim to “ne regrette rien.” Stories I Might Regret Telling You pulls no punches, but Martha is as hard on herself as she is on her famous but emotionally distant father, Loudon. The stories she tells are raw and unvarnished, but it all feels fair, and it’s a refreshing change from the standard, self-serving, celebrity memoir.

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