Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the Twentieth Century” as Want to Read:
Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the Twentieth Century
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the Twentieth Century

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  3,119 ratings  ·  162 reviews
This is a secret history of modern times, told by way of what conventional history tries to exclude. Lipstick Traces tells a story as disruptive and compelling as the century itself. Hip, metaphorical and allusive...--Gail Caldwell, Boston Sunday Globe. Full-color illustrations and halftones.
Paperback, 508 pages
Published November 6th 2001 by Harvard University Press (first published 1989)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Lipstick Traces, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Lipstick Traces

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
3.97  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,119 ratings  ·  162 reviews

Sort order
Mar 19, 2013 marked it as to-read
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
W.D. Clarke
Sep 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This isn't just a book about the history of punk, peeps: this traces the spirit of negation, of scandalized, moral indignation, back into the French Revolution, through surrealism and Dada and the Situationists. As academically rigorous as it is stylishly written, it is an absolute must if you are a music lover in any way, a true classic of the oft-pilloried category of Cultural Studies: it crosses disciplinary boundaries in the most intellectually fertile way imaginable, yet jettisons none of t ...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 rated it did not like it
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
Jan 06, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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 rated it really liked it
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 rated it liked it
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.
Jan 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Dense and intellectual but worth the effort. See how popular culture subverts and exploits all shocking revolutionary movements until they become mainstream and no longer threatening. Win valuable prizes on the way.
Stewart Home
Dec 25, 2011 rated it did not like it

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
Sep 17, 2007 rated it liked it
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
Mar 07, 2012 rated it did not like it
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 rated it it was amazing
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 rated it really liked it
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 rated it it was amazing
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 rated it it was amazing
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 rated it it was amazing
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 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ars, music, 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 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011, non-fiction, 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.
Feb 13, 2008 rated it really liked it

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 rated it it was amazing
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 rated it it was amazing
This book is how philosophy should be written. A true Glitzkrieg.
Tim Jones
Sep 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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.
Aug 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Changed my life.
Oct 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
I did it!
Mark Desrosiers
Nov 18, 2007 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 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
I was really obsessed with this book from the ages of about 18-25.
Jul 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
A period piece written at a time of resistance looking back to moments when revolution appeared in the offing through the vehicle of radical and anarchic artistic statements. Opening with the culture bomb of the Sex Pistols and then working backwards through the twentieth century to stop a while with the original Dada movement at Cabaret Voltaire in 1917, then forward past the cheapening of Dada by the Surrealists to land in 1950 on at the feet of the Orioles and the Letterist International, the ...more
Derek Martin
Dec 20, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Ray Dunsmore
Jul 08, 2018 rated it did not like it
Attempts to link the punk subculture with its cultural forebears - the artistic anarchists, dadaists, and men who find their beauty in negation and destruction. This is a noble goal and, executed correctly, would be a fascinating read. This was not executed correctly and, as such, reads like a schizophrenic morass of ideology that flits from art piece to violent revolution to experimental salon talk and back so many times, you end up filled with loose threads you cannot do anything with. Could'v ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Subculture: The Meaning of Style
  • From the Velvets to the Voidoids: A Pre-Punk History for a Post-Punk World
  • Country: The Twisted Roots Of Rock 'n' Roll
  • We Got the Neutron Bomb: The Untold Story of L.A. Punk
  • The Trouser Press Record Guide: The Ultimate Guide to Alternative Music
  • Punk: The Definitive Record of a Revolution
  • Dance of Days: Two Decades of Punk in the Nation's Capital
  • A Whore Just Like The Rest: The Music Writings Of Richard Meltzer
  • Rip it Up and Start Again
  • Let it Blurt: The Life and Times of Lester Bangs, America's Greatest Rock Critic
  • Punk Rock: An Oral History
  • Main Lines, Blood Feasts, and Bad Taste: A Lester Bangs Reader
  • Feel Like Going Home: Portraits in Blues and Rock 'n' Roll
  • No Wave: Post-Punk. Underground. New York. 1976-1980.
  • The Heart Of Rock & Soul: The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made
  • England's Dreaming: Anarchy, Sex Pistols, Punk Rock, and Beyond
  • Fucked Up + Photocopied: Instant Art of the Punk Rock Movement
  • Incredibly Strange Music, Vol. One
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
“Banishing the love song, people discovered what else there was to sing about.” 3 likes
More quotes…