While Manson is obviously an intelligent man, I think the fans attesting that this book proves that fact have been at best hoodwinked. A ghost-writtenWhile Manson is obviously an intelligent man, I think the fans attesting that this book proves that fact have been at best hoodwinked. A ghost-written book full of deliberate shock guided by the man who wrote The Dirt (a book that trades in the same slick layering of excess) is not a testament to the man himself.
I read this book in two sittings and was greatly engaged by it - I was alternatingly disturbed and amused throughout while being consistently entertained. But despite that, the whole way through I couldn't help shake an awareness of when this book was released - this isn't an honest biography, it's at least partially if not entirely a long-winded advertisement reinforcing the overall myth of Manson that existed in the popular imagination at the time. I spent a chunk of my early teens under that spell, which makes this reflection seem all the stranger now. The vivid and somewhat ham-fisted misanthropy and deliberate erasure of self that was a hallmark of the aesthetic comes across as buffoonery and petulance in hindsight.
But all that aside, I loved reading it. There was an urgency throughout and the hedonistic ride remains enthralling, if not a bit choppy. I just don't know whether I'll ever get much more out it now that I've read the last page.
Highlights: * Enthralling tales of utter excess and degeneracy * The later chapters showing developing self-awareness that almost starts to repudiate his earlier misdeeds, and threatening to reveal more of Manson than any amount of description of his childhood could * A real sense of a driven man working towards something profoundly affecting the public consciousness
Low points: * Endless whining about other bands, other people, and especially women. * Hammy over-emphasis of how soulless and empty Manson was and how little he cared about people - comes across as completely unconvincing * Constant hinting at a deeper philosophical or moral system that is never developed and instead used as a justification for doing drugs...more
I've been very impressed by everything by Kinzer that I've read, yet this book was somehow the one I objected to the most. Admittedly I view much of hI've been very impressed by everything by Kinzer that I've read, yet this book was somehow the one I objected to the most. Admittedly I view much of his political writing from a differing position so I'm in no way surprised that a heavily personal book didn't quite gel with me. But therein lies one of my favourite things about the book - Kinzer unashamedly injects personal experience, opinion and personality throughout the book and so I found that the italicised portions gave the following chapters incredible richness. I usually find Kinzer's style incredibly satisfying to read at the worst of times and this book's tone and level of personal engagement gives vibrancy to his otherwise usually somewhat detached prose.
Highlights: his interviews with ordinary Turks of polar opposite opinions, his interviews with Kurds and account of travelling in remote Kurdish areas.
Weak points: his occasionally patronising attitude when it comes to solutions for the Kurdish and Armenian problems, his somewhat wavering position on the European Union as regards Turkey (I am no fan but even I think his invective is a little misplaced)...more
Surprisingly engaging. I didn't expect myself to finish this given the narrow subject matter, but I found it to be full of fresh insight and powerfulSurprisingly engaging. I didn't expect myself to finish this given the narrow subject matter, but I found it to be full of fresh insight and powerful personal stories.
The essays included throughout varied quite a bit, with some being a complete snooze and others being gripping and insistent (although the reflections on even the boring ones were still very interesting).
Getting a variety of perspectives on hardcore, straight edge and politics is quite illuminating, and the book does a good job of showing several scenes and wisely avoids focusing on the US. The book is impressively honest in rendering its interviewees - on some occasions when the interviewer asks a question asking how radical politics and straight edge are linked, the interviewee will simply say a brusque "For me, they're not" and things will move on.
As someone who isn't straight edge I still massively enjoyed the book, and only in one section did I find one of the interviewees to be preachy or childish about their choices. A lot of the ideas raised have given me reason to reconsider my own attitude and relationship to intoxicants. ...more
I don't think I'm gonna be able to get through this book completely. It's enormous, and the problems I started to feel throughout the book only becameI don't think I'm gonna be able to get through this book completely. It's enormous, and the problems I started to feel throughout the book only became more and more prominent as time goes on.
The book’s overall angle on a lot of the more negative parts of hardcore seems to be “we were shitty and it was awesome”. There’s about as much considered reflection in the book as that implies.
Much of the book's insight on issues in punk is painfully sexist and tokenistic, incredibly biased to the point of simply further poisoning an already fetid well as regards fascism and racism in punk. If you ignore the bolded text that contains the author’s commentary, the book becomes a more palatable - there are lots of insightful interviews with major players throughout, although they're mixed in with a more incoherent series with absolutely minor nobodies who appear to be Blush's friends or something. I’m okay with admitted biases, but that doesn’t give you carte blanche to write the entire book through a single lens.
All this said - there's no denying the quality of the good interviews. The various components that made up Black Flag provide particularly interesting context, and the sheer range of interviewees (despite the aforementioned scattershot inclusion criteria) certainly sets a a scene of sorts.
The Feral House style of peppering historical/biographical music content with imagery is rolled out here also, which serves occasionally to illuminate and in other places clutter. Once you hit one of the pages where it's nothing but Blush listing names and dates in rather eye-watering bold text you find yourself pining for pictures.
The second edition adds a section on punk spirituality, quite arbitrarily stapled on in the first few chapters for some reason, feeling completely out of place. It’s a four-page lip service to one of the most fascinating parts of the NY hardcore scene which disappointed me.
Overall, a book that would surely justify its own indulgence as being punk. As long as the indulgence was pre-'86 indulgence, otherwise that isn't punk maaaan. ...more
This book is a true hidden gem of modern drug literature in many ways. I was quite surprised to see the small number of reviews for the book given itsThis book is a true hidden gem of modern drug literature in many ways. I was quite surprised to see the small number of reviews for the book given its publisher and topic, and it definitely deserves to be more well-read.
The book is clearly divided into three sections. Feiling first sets cultural context, giving a precise and concise overview of the history of drug prohibition with a focus on cocaine and also, vitally, an overview of the use of coca amongst the indigenous peoples of South America. The portrayal of traditional use of coca certainly gave me the impression that colonial attitudes towards coca use have had a palpable influence on how modern western culture views cocaine production and its use outside of the western world.
The second section clearly portrays the devastating impact that both drug use and, much more importantly, production have on peoples and environments around the world. The author details his time spent in Columbia towards the start of the book and this is palpable in the slightly-too-detailed but nevertheless horrifying section on the legacy of pollution, corruption and murder that western demand for cocaine has produced.
The third section proffers a small set of coherent and well-argued if not somewhat poorly arranged solutions and options for solving the problems that the war on drugs and specifically cocaine have wrought. I don't think I agreed with some of Feiling's arguments despite being a dedicated anti-prohibitionist, but the range of viewpoints and arguments ranging from users to cops made the section read as both convincing and thorough.
Despite being both professional in its tone and prolific in its use of reference and data, the book doesn't come across as stodgily academic or lose any degree of readability. If anything it just serves to frame and inform the various absurdities of the drug war (my personal favourite being that, despite increasingly widespread anti-coca spraying campaigns in Columbia, since 2003 more cocaine was exported from Columbia than was thought to exist in the country). ...more
A really in-depth look at the scenes that founded modern death metal. The focus on particular bands while passing over other bands is a little frustraA really in-depth look at the scenes that founded modern death metal. The focus on particular bands while passing over other bands is a little frustrating (particularly the soft touch Death are given), although I can't imagine remedying this being possible given the scope of the task. The writing style is very accessible and the tone is quite fitting for music journalism generally.
The extensive use of photos of bands etc helps showcase how incredibly young some of the bands were, and also some really shockingly poor hairstyles. That said, some of the effects applied to the photos for variety really don't work and obscure the content.
The book's true strength is the sheer number of pivotal figures that are interviewed, and the incredible level of detail they go into. Possibly a bit too deep a dive for those who aren't already invested in the genres but mandatory reading for even occasional fans....more