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Savage Joy

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An East Village Tenement in the Beatdown Mid-’70s

New Yorker Magazine Literary Parties, Downtown Punk Bacchanals

Love, Music, Blood, and Madness

In 1976, Savage Joy author Robert Dunn (Meet the Annas, Stations of the Cross) moved to New York City, scored a $90-a-month East Village apartment, and got hired at The New Yorker magazine. All life-changing good fortune, and the foundation of this novel, Dunn’s most autobiographical yet.

In Savage Joy the narrator, Cole Whitman, straddles his uptown literary world and the budding Lower Manhattan punk scene. When an apartment in his building at 340 East 11th Street opens up, musician Slater Martin moves in, sweeping Cole along into his CBGBs world. Also moving into 340 is Cole’s elegant and mysterious literary editor pal Emily Prosser, whom Cole desires unrequitedly.

Cole needs a girlfriend, Slater needs a new band, Emily needs a new life. Together the three of them, along with a fiery female drummer called Sailor and a dweeby bassist, Wendell Walter, get a new punk group going, named, by Cole, Savage Joy.

What follows among the five of them is both joyful and savage, a feast of love, music, sex, violence, blood, and madness.

271 pages, Hardcover

Published June 16, 2017

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About the author

Robert Dunn

437 books36 followers
Robert Dunn is a writer, teacher, and musician. He has published widely, including work in the New Yorker and an O. Henry Prize story, as well as the musical novels Pink Cadillac (a Book Sense 76 pick), Cutting Time, Soul Cavalcade, Meet the Annas, Look at Flower, and Stations of the Cross.

Dunn has worked for the New Yorker magazine and Sports Illustrated, as well as teaching fiction writing at The New School in New York City. In the 1980s he was Bernard Malamud’s personal assistant.

Lately, Dunn has taken up photography; his photobooks (OWS, Angel Parade, and Meeting Robert Frank) are available at the ICP Bookstore, Dashwood, the Strand, and numerous other art bookstores.

Dunn is married to a film art director and lives in New York City.

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Displaying 1 - 6 of 6 reviews
5 reviews
October 5, 2017
This novel is based on five characters COLE, SLATER, EMILY, SAILOR AND WENDELL WALTER. Narrated by Cole about his and his friend's life at the lower Manhattan, each one of them trying to fulfill their dreams.

Cole wants to be a writer and needs a girlfriend, Slater wants to rebuild her music band, Emily wants a new life away from her dark truth, Slater wants something different in his life (a reason to live) and Wendell needs a companion and a lover.

When these five people meet, it becomes a savage joy, music band which has madness, love, music and so on.

Now, you will ask me where is a love story?
Yes, there is a love story, a secret love story, which will hold you until the end.

Cole in love with Emily but Emily is in love with Sailor, Sailor loves Emily and Wendell both, Wendell loves Sailor and Slater love Cole, its a hell kind of story which will keep your eyes wide open.

Coming to the review,
Writing is amazing but the storyline is a bit offline, I was expecting a good love story but I was disappointed on that, otherwise, the story is something new and characters are well explained.

I would recommend this novel to all those people who love to read different storylines every time.

Profile Image for Asia.
80 reviews2 followers
August 22, 2017
I really enjoyed this book. It took me about two weeks to read it, but I don’t mean that as a criticism, I was savouring and enjoying the experience. I’m usually big on reading quickly, and I like fasted paced books. But this was a perfect slow burn for me.

My favourite part of the book was the atmosphere. Every time I picked up this book, I was completely enveloped into the time period. In my head I could picture New York City, mid 1970’s. The characters, the speech, the descriptions. It felt like I was there, which I don’t experience very often in books. For atmosphere it reminded me of the show Mad Men, the time period and the setting. It was great.

Savage Joy is a character driven book. The main character is Cole, the book primarily tells his story. Cole learning about the new life he has started in the big city, and now exploring this foreign world of punk music and the CBGB. It was so interesting for me to learn about the music scene in this way. We get to see it from Coles eyes, how the lives compare, the music world and the literary world. It seemed as though he was almost torn between the two, fascinated by the band, and his dream to be an amazing author. It also follows the stories of the band mates as well. It show’s the drama and stress of band members touring together and the power struggle between the members.

I loved watching the characters evolve through this story. The way they interact and their relationships changing. It felt very natural to me, new friendships change as people learn. Also there was a lot of new things for them: music, a tour, new jobs, there was a lot going on for everyone. It was a fascinating read all around.

All of the characters were so different, and they blended so well. A naive writer, relaxed musician, rebellious girl from a good family, responsible girl that looks like a rocker, and a young religious man exploring life.

Anyone interested in the 1970’s CBGBs should pick up this book. You will be taken back to New York City and feel like your exploring a new world.
Profile Image for Turnip.
70 reviews1 follower
September 8, 2017
Note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and open review.

I became a little nervous when I saw that ‘Savage Joy’ called itself a “music novel”, as I didn’t see how I could find that interesting. Boy was I wrong. What a beautifully written, heart-wrenching story about a bunch of kids trying to make their dreams reality while finding their way in the world. If that sounds a little saccharine, don’t let my perspective fool you. The prose is powerful and doesn’t hold
anything back in making you fall in love with and hate these characters, often at the same time.

Beautiful book. 5/5
Profile Image for Lois Metzger.
Author 16 books73 followers
June 27, 2017
Loved "Savage Joy"! It's fast and fun and vividly takes you into the worlds of NYC literary life and punk rock in its early days. Great characters and dialogue--wonderful all the way!
Profile Image for Ellen Cooper.
2 reviews9 followers
June 27, 2017
Savage Joy follows a young aspiring writer as he learns to navigate not only the challenges of the New York literary world in the 1970s but also the raucous world of punk rock, which he falls into through mere coincidence.
Cole Whitman, coming from California, already feels out of place in New York, but as he encounters the burgeoning punk rock scene, he finds he has an awful lot to learn. He becomes involved with the band Savage Joy, which he helps name. Hardcore characters like the wild lead singer Slater and the fiery redheaded drummer Sailor seem to shake up Cole at every turn.
I didn’t know much about the punk rock scene, but as I followed Cole’s adventures, Dunn’s novel put me right there. While the middle of Savage Joy maintains a steady pace, the last part is packed with all sorts of astounding plot twists that make the book impossible to put down until you reach the end.
I would recommend Savage Joy to anyone interested in musical worlds and young adults who are just learning about how to handle adulthood themselves.
Displaying 1 - 6 of 6 reviews

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