Book Reviews – April 2009

Dangerous Laughter
Steven Millhauser
Street: 02.10.09
It is clear from reading Dangerous Laughter that author Steven Millhauser has an adroit sense of the bizarre and a deft command of the English language––two things absolutely requisite in writing stories. And many of the stories in Dangerous Laughter are quite good. Having said that, many times Millhauser’s voice is so serene that it borders on sterile. Covering a wide variety of plots and themes, from the construction of nation-encompassing domes, to a simulation of the sense of touch, to clandestine, pseudo-erotic laugh parties, Millhauser’s works sound interesting in theory––yet the reader finds himself flipping to the end of each story, counting down the pages until he’s done. When reading feels like a chore, it’s time to get a new book. Or perhaps we should not so easily eschew T.C. Boyle’s admonishment––to remember that literature, for all its lofty ideals and principles, is still entertainment. –J.R. Boyce

London’s Burning: True Adventures on the Frontlines of Punk 1976-1977
Dave Thompson
Chicago Review Press
Street: 05.01.09
There is no question that the year between the summer of 1976 and the the summer of 1977 was a powerful one for British rock history, when punk rock rose from a buzz on the streets to a roar of rebellion that still echoes today. London’s Burning is a memoir that recalls vivid experiences of concerts and cultural flash points that focus on what was happening on the streets and in the clubs. It answers questions like, “were the Sex Pistols really any good as a live band?” Or, “what made teddy boys hate punks so much that they stalked the streets looking for teenagers to beat up?” Thompson calls on the personal recollections of big-league figures in the punk scene, including members of The Damned, The Maniacs, The Adverts, the Patti Smith Group and Roogalator. London’s Burning is a fond collection of memories from the early days of punk, before mass commercialization and fame launched the movement worldwide. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’ve never wanted to drink a Pabst Blue Ribbon after reading a book until now. –Alexandra Harris

Marching With Elves: A Galactic Triumph in Marmellia
Jay Agnello
Publish America
Street: 06.30.08
Years into the future, the planet Earth is finally nearing its end. Several races of advanced humanoids have fled into space, leaving only a few behind to watch their planet crumble around them. When a group of alien elves decide that the Earth is worth saving, they commission the remaining earthlings to jump ship Noah’s-Ark style and fly through space with two of each native species to return when the planet is once again habitable. Mayhem ensues when one of their ships is rerouted to the Intergalactic Zoo and the ship’s cargo is put on display for the enjoyment of little alien boys and girls. Agnello’s writing seems inspired by Douglas Adams with his use of humor and matter of fact dealings between humans and aliens. The story is overly complex at times as the concept of time is abandoned to link characters from different centuries. Marching with Elves does take a bit to get into, but once the pieces are all in place it is hard to put down. –Ben Trentelman

Punk Rock Fun Time Activity Book
Aye Jay
ECW Press
Street: 04.01.09
As hard as some people will try to tell you otherwise, punk rock was largely founded by idiots for idiots. The Punk Rock Fun Time Activity Book does away with all the boring analyses and those pesky big words you’d find in most books about punk rock and replaces them with easy to do activities more suited for the intellectual level of most punk rock fans. Who gives a shit what kind of effect Black Flag had on the shape of punk in the 1980s? This book lets you draw tattoos on Henry Rollins! And even if you don’t know who Rob Tyner is, you’ll have a blast connecting the dots to reveal his epic afro. Whether you’re a mohawk-sporting moron or an irony loving pseudo-intellectual, there’s much fun to be had word searching, crosswording and punk libbing in this book. Regress and be merry! –Ricky Vigil