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Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the Twentieth Century: A Secret History of the 20th Century

3.97  ·  Rating Details ·  2,873 Ratings  ·  154 Reviews
Greil Marcus, author of "Mystery Train," widely acclaimed as the best book ever written about America as seen through its music, began work on this new book out of a fascination with the Sex Pistols: that scandalous antimusical group, invented in London in 1975 and dead within two years, which sparked the emergence of the culture called punk. "I am an antichrist " shouted ...more
Paperback, 496 pages
Published January 19th 2006 by Faber & Faber (first published 1989)
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Mar 19, 2013 Geoff marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Geoff by: Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
I met Greil Marcus one weekday afternoon when I was supposed to be at work; I was leafing through sale books in the basement of Politics and Prose here in DC and he was at a table surrounded by copies of his newest book on Dylan getting ready to give a reading. I said "hi" and picked up a copy without asking and flipped through it and told him Love and Theft might be the best record of Dylan's career. Marcus didn't seem to be particularly interested in talking with me, so I put his book back dow ...more
What I learned from this book is that Griel Marcus is a Sex Pistols fanboy, who placed way too much importance on this band and didn't even think to look beyond the illusion of Johnny Rotten and Co. to more authentic 'situationist' inspired moments of punk. The SI sections of this book are interesting, and as a history of the Sex Pistols this book is vaguely interesting, but really the book is a lot of over-hyped crap.
May 07, 2007 space rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: IDIOTS
Marcus not only gets most of it WRONG, he seems intent on politicizing the expressly apolitical (early p-rock). My opinion of this book has always been colored by the fact that this guy is a clown... a fucking PRO-SITU ROCK CRITIC, someone that Debord would've punched in the fucking face (I know this cause I corresponded with Guy- and he agreed this pot-boiler is laughable... as did Jamie Reid.) No one should take this thing seriously. Fuck it off and read the original texts. Don't let this POP- ...more
Gaelan D'costa
What a bastard! Greil Marcus sucked me in with 70s punk trivia and turned out to be an introductory text on Dadaism, Situationist International and the May '68 riots that shaped contemporary France.

But, if this book as anything to say, it shaped punk too. By bookending philosophy with punk histories it convinced me that listening to protest music was not enough; it uncovered a philosophy that demonstrates the true danger and disruptive joy that should have informed the instruments and ears of ev
Jared Colley
May 15, 2007 Jared Colley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those interested in avant-garde, dadaism, situationism, punk
This book is so many things: (1) a non-linear history of the avant-garde, (2) a broad critique of the everyday life of mid/late capitalist society, (3) an account of punk, anarchy, and the historical/cultural roots of such phenomena, (4) a work of art perhaps?

This book is not for everyone, however. It is, at times, a frustrating, incoherent read - an experiment in historical scholarship. Malcom McLaren himself states that Marcus' book "was a crazy, wild, at times almost inarticulate attempt to d
Jul 29, 2008 Derek rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
As a scholarly work, this is some post-modern mush-brained twaddle.

Dude...John of Leyden...John Lydon!...Whoa! Take a rip from the history bong!

It seems to be a gateway drug to Situationism, May '68, etc. for a lot of folks, which is of value.
Sep 17, 2007 John rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: art rock kids who feel the need to trump their art history/film major roommates pop culture ace
Shelves: music
this is a tedious book, almost a textbook. (i actually have seen it taught in universities.) at its best, lipstick is engaging in waves; at its worst it is mundane, bordering on inane, and repetitive in marcus' masturbatory doldrums. reading about subversive political turn-of-the-century art movements in france and central europe can be very interesting. there's a bit on dada if you're into that. of course marcus couldn't resist indulging himself - as is his m.o., i'm finding - with firsthand ac ...more
Stewart Home
Dec 25, 2011 Stewart Home rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition

The emphasis Marcus places upon personalities ultimately nullifies any sense of individuality which his subjects might possess. The links drawn between free spirit heretics and members of the Lettriste, Situationist and PUNK movements, are forged without acknowledgement of the fact that the former lived in feudal communities while the latter were attempting to effect change within industrialised societies. Since the mental sets and social networks of individuals living unde
Mar 07, 2012 macartain rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Nah... This is one of those books with little black-and-white reproductions of gestetnered Dadaist zines that stoned punks pored over in bedsits decades ago and thought they were into a genuine subculture... You know, like Chaos Magick and Apocalypse Culture? All this shit was mysterious back then but went out the window when the love-it-or-hate-it internet pipe got hooked up to everybody's house about a decade ago and now knowing about Situationism or Throbbing Gristle is as simple as hitting w ...more
Julie Fishkin
Feb 25, 2007 Julie Fishkin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who listens to good music
Shelves: read-already
Brilliant. This imperative, Benjamin Buchloh endorsed, piece of cultural history examines, re-defines and formulates the entire history of punk movement from its inception centuries ago with various revolutionary anarchists all the way up to Malcolm McLaren and, yes, the sex pistols. He understands Guy Debords fundamental contributions to punk through the inception of the Situationists during the Paris May 68 revolts and covers everything an educated kid like you needs to know to call yourself p ...more
Mar 13, 2014 Fred rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This thing turned into more of a slog than I was looking for. Thought it would be a fun history of punk music or something, and it's more of a slightly academic treatise on youth revolts (sort of). Slips into some Marxist theory talk - still nobody has sufficiently explained reification to me so that I can use it in a sentence - but still better than the dreaded "unpacking" of the structuralists.
My first clue it would be a little tougher was that it was from Harvard University Press - they're
When I first read this I was so excited someone had managed to reasonably accumulate so much of this particular variety of comparative history. I recall being impressed by ideas moving through history, time and again there being such movements toward liberty of self expression.

I believe recent times reflect that pattern in an oddly popular manner. Its been assimilated somehow via capitalism or something commercial. Now it seems as though the people who in past times might have been subversive, c
Feb 26, 2013 Joaquín rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of those books that discovers you that the History is written in a background that just seldom appears in the books of History. Cultural Studies? This books is History of the Culture. from the avant-gardes to the punk, through the forever-forbitten-heretical Situtionism, here is what the a pretended prty-revolutionary-professor would never avoid to you. Highly recommended for those who mistrust of the Grand Narrative
May 27, 2008 Steve rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: punks, situationists, Dadaists
Essential reading! Connects Punk rock to the Heresy of the Free Spirit, Dada and Situationism. This is a poetic history that is incredibly inspiring and, it seems, somewhat speculative. But poetically it is utterly true and on the mark. Reading this book changed my life and the way that I view (and listen to!) the world.
Andrew Price
Oct 13, 2012 Andrew Price rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm not sure there's any book that's taught / opened my eyes to more things. For that reason alone has to have 5 stars. That said its hard work at times and as for the "structure" of the debate/argument/hypothesis - well there isn't one. It's more a cyclic stream of consciousness and all the more wonderful for it.
Mustafa Al-Laylah
Jul 21, 2008 Mustafa Al-Laylah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: music, ars, philosophia
Probably one of the best books I'ver ever read from Greil Marcus The only book by Marcus that I've ever been interested enough in to finish.

It links ideologically the Free Spirit movement of the European Middle Ages to the Parisian student uprisings of the late sixties to the evolution of UK punk in one surly, ill-mannered, shaggy-dog epic. Ne travaillez jamais!
Erin Tuzuner
May 16, 2011 Erin Tuzuner rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, 2011, music, queer
Just another book about the resonating splendor and life altering nature of rebellious teenage music. Actually, there's a bit more to that. Marcus covers Dada, Surrealism, Lettrists and the Situationist Movement through the lens of early punk rock, proving that there was an intellectual basis to the seemingly obvious nihilistic overtones in the Sex Pistols music.

Marcus is not only a great scholar but a great punk and a great punk scholar.

Now, to say this necessarily connects to a million other things, these arbitrary categories used for introduction and a bit of context...

Point being, this whole text rages along its own margins and succeeds marvelously.
Sep 09, 2007 Tosh rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's impossible to seperate the music from its era or what happened before hand. Marcus makes a conga line with the Situationists International and how that lead to Punk. It's a fascinating read with a lot of great visuals - and a good way to get an introduction to Guy Debord and Co.
Jan 31, 2017 Jim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is how philosophy should be written. A true Glitzkrieg.
Tim Jones
Sep 11, 2014 Tim Jones rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I haven't read this in a while, but it is, in my mind, the best work of pop culture criticism and theory ever written.
Samantha Everts
Aug 22, 2013 Samantha Everts rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Changed my life.
Oct 13, 2016 Meredith rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I did it!
Mark Desrosiers
Nov 18, 2007 Mark Desrosiers rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: overrated-drivel
Worthless free-association historical wank. Remarkably, it still seems to act like Palmolive on the lily-soft brains of monied neo-Dadaists and grad-school semioticians alike.
Nov 13, 2008 Kat rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I was really obsessed with this book from the ages of about 18-25.
Derek Martin
Dec 20, 2008 Derek Martin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Still reading it, but it's pretty interesting so far. I enjoy the writing style even though it does jump around a bit. The sentences are complete and coherent, but the narrative exhibits a cut-up type of technique, punctuated by headlines - it does remind me of the Aeolus chapter of Ulysses (but it is much easier reading than Joyce). It pays to re-read certain sections once you move a bit further on.

This book glorifies the music and its importance a bit too much at times - but linking the poses
Randy Russberg
May 05, 2017 Randy Russberg rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Although topic is not everyone's cup of tea, Marcus has done great job. His writing is outstanding, expertise equisit. He is obviously passionate writer who do not believe in dry, "objective" presentation of facts and stories.
Jul 23, 2011 Malcolm rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cultural-studies
A fabulous history of the cultural trends that became punk, tracing the underground cultures of 20th century Europe (and with a great soundtrack, if you can find it). Marcus has presented us with a significant contribution to cultural history at two levels - he has traced the 20th century history of a set of disruptive cultural movements from Dada through Surrealism, Lettrism, and Situationism to Punk. His grasp of the movements and of their political and philosophical foundations is monumental ...more
Tim Chaplin
May 07, 2012 Tim Chaplin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
At the time of writing the Country is getting ready to celebrate the impending Olympics and 60th Jubilee. Union Jacks are everywhere and everyone is getting ready for a public holiday. For some of us it will be an escape from the boredom and austerity measures of the current government. In 1977 another Jubilee was being celebrated and a song came out that encapsulated the feelings of all of those people who felt alienated from the patriotism and nostalgia for a Britain that no longer existed. Th ...more
Oct 08, 2007 Christopher rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Before I forget: turns out Hurlements en faveur de Sade is on YouTube. Of all things:

It is difficult to impossible to overstate how important this book is to me. When I first read it I was already passingly familiar with Debord, situationism, dada and, of course, British punk rock (North American punk is completely excised from this account) and I had an idea that they were somewhat related. I was looking for this book to explicate those ideas; instead I found
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Greil Marcus is the author of Mystery Train (1975), Lipstick Traces (1989), The Shape of Things to Come (2006), When that Rough God Goes Riding and Bob Dylan by Greil Marcus (both 2010), and other books. With Werner Sollors he is the editor of A New Literary History of America (2009). In recent years he has taught at Berkeley, Princeton, Minnesota, NYU, and the New School in New York. He lives in ...more
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