In Jessica Hopper’s new book, Night Moves, a memoir of her younger years in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood ... Hopper has been the music editor at Rookie and Pitchfork, and she has published music journalism for more than twenty years. But her writing started in that 'little fanzine,' and the scrappy enthusiasm of zine culture permeates Night Moves. Using her journals from 2004 through 2009, she creates a collage of her past. These vignettes jump from descriptions of the neighborhood to scene reports to remembered conversations. The prose is at once detailed and casual.
In his seminal play The Importance of Being Earnest, Oscar Wilde has the character Gwendolen declare, 'I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.' By that worthy metric, Jessica Hopper’s memoir Night Moves—which draws on her personal journals from the aughts, and chronicles her formative years as a DJ and aspiring writer in Chicago’s independent music community—would make for appealing train reading ... breezy-yet-realistic, easy-to-read honesty is well-executed here in Hopper’s memoir: insouciant, brainy and repetitive in a good way, like hanging out with someone who unfailingly but not uncritically adores 'Chicago’s deep manic powers.'
In the early aughts, Hopper was a twentysomething going to shows, DJing, and riding her bike in a Chicago that, in many ways, already no longer exists. This time capsule of a collection documents, in journal-like bits, all this in tandem with the growth of her career as a professional music critic ... Hopper is ever-quotable, gut-checkingly deep, and laugh-out-loud funny.
...there's a niggling feeling of being inside your own life that attacks you in your late 20s ... Meditations on this specific stage of adulthood are laced throughout music-critic Jessica Hopper's tightly-written memoir Night Moves ... The memoir reads like a journal ... Despite the lack of a narrative thread connecting the entries, Hopper's accounts of the jobs she took to get by, the kinds of people she met, and the shows she went to in an era before ubiquitous cell phones resonate because of their familiarity and her humor ... She writes about specific, mundane encounters with such keen observations that each moment is universal ... Though each of these moments — rendered with Hopper's dry humor and wit — bring a complicated city's many facets to life, it's her riffs on the life that she's participating in that give Night Moves heft.
With its minimalist descriptions and deadpan delivery, Night Moves is about our comrades in arms who, as Seger sings, just don't seem to have as much to lose ... These pages from [Hopper's] diary demonstrate the astuteness of a hungry girl, someone who always knew she could level up—and eventually did, without having to sacrifice any of her attitude. It's her blunt wit, spiked with hilarious rhetorical questions, that has carried her to where she is ... Night Moves is a dozen thorny roses for the city that keeps blowing it windy-ness beneath Hopper's darkly comic wings. And Hopper, in this work as in all her others, is one fiercely rock 'n' roll creature.
Hopper loves Chicago...and wants to convey the everythingness of her domicile-playground, to somehow put into words the cinematic experience of living in a city while a city lives inside her, minute by minute, hour by hour. Considering her motivation, one could, and should, question her decision to opt for spareness across three quasi-chapters over hard-core detail and chronology, the very tools for building atmosphere ... Anyone who did not directly participate in the gritty upper Midwestern music scenes of 10, 15, 20 years ago might not be able to latch on to Hopper’s narrative of nonsequential moments, however charming or prescient they are, because she leaves out the last names of supporting characters and their exact relationship to her, not to mention analysis ... the world still lacks published books by women writing as historians of the countercultural movements they built. So it’s hard between pages not to pine for a more traditional take that would have helped balance the scales ... Though it possesses a voice that crackles with the intelligence and worldliness of a well-read rock star, Night Moves, drawn from Hopper’s personal journals, does not add to the above literature (which is, thankfully, growing nonetheless). And yet it does something we need books to do in 2018—it gives readers a neutral space to kick around thoughts of their own glory days by omitting dates and fame, root causes of anxiety.
Pitchfork writer Hopper...freestyles her way through the past in this spirited random-access journal of her Chicago days in the early 2000s, when she struggled to get by while taking in the sights ... The nonsequential entries make it difficult to chart Hopper’s growth, but that isn’t her game. In this lively and funny collection, she bears vivid witness to an industrial punk landscape that is both crumbling and evolving beneath her bare feet.