Book Reviews – June 2010

Obsolete: An Encyclopedia of Once-Common Things Passing Us By
Anna Jane Grossman, Illustrations by James Gulliver Hancock
Abrams Image
Street: 09.01.09
Man, I love me an encyclopedia. Yet this particular self-hating encyclopedia makes the wild claim that both encyclopedias and books in general will inevitably become obsolete in our exponentially progressing civilization. But it doesn’t stop there—among the other quickly fading favorites Anna Grossman includes in her catalog are airport goodbyes, lickable stamps (good riddance, I say), film, fax machines, doing nothing at work (a truly unfortunate loss), phone sex (I beg to differ), and pornographic magazines (lies!). Her claims may be wild, but her arguments are certainly compelling. Each entry comes with a clear explanation of how it made the list. And to be fair, she’s irrefutable on most of them...I’m just in denial. Check the book before it’s too late. –Ischa Buchanan

Sober Living for the Revolution: Hardcore Punk, Straight Edge, and Radical Politics
Gabriel Kuhn
PM Press
Street: 02.10
Here’s one for the beer issue: Sober Living for the Revolution reads like a 352-page zine, outlining the fascinating and sometimes embarrassing history of straight edge. It includes reprints of several seminal zines such as CrimethInc’s Wasted Indeed: Anarchy and Alcohol, which sit alongside brilliant interviews with sXe idols like Ian MacKaye and Dennis Lyxzén. Maybe the most interesting chapter is the one in which straight edge is examined within radical LGBTQ and feminist communities in essays like Nick Riotfag’s “My Edge is Anything but Straight: Towards a Radical Queer Critique of Intoxication Culture” and an interview with Jenni Ramme, the founder of the Polish, anarchafeminist record label Emancypunx. Kuhn points out the shallow boredom of hardcore’s tendency to be dominated by apolitical tough-guy posturing, and directly attacks the ultra-conservative, homophobic politics that took hold of the scene in the ‘90s. Although it feels overly academic and heavy sometimes, Sober Living for the Revolution is essential reading for anyone who is even a little bit interested in hardcore, LGBTQ culture, feminism, or radical politics—or for anyone who doesn’t quite “get” any of those things. –Nate Perkins

Ultraviolet: 69 Blacklight Posters From The Aquarian Age and Beyond
Daniel Donahue
Abrams Image
Street: 10.01.09
It seems a strange coincidence to have just happened upon this book on 4/20. The book is a collection of 69 (hehe) of the grooviest, mind-blowing “neon” posters from the psychedelic era.  Best viewed under blacklight, the colors explode and bounce off the 9 x 14” pages.  The reproductions are so good, you can actually tell where some of the posters were flocked with black felt.  The imagery is a menagerie of naked chicks, zonked hippies, afro-coiffed black militants, rockers, wizards and bikers amidst fields of mushrooms, geometric patterns, pot leaves and planets.  Political messages are effectively painted pastel on a few prints, representing anti-war, anti-drug, and one birth control poster suggesting, “Be Impregnable, Use the Pill.”  The real fun is in the over-the-top psychedelic debauchery herein: sex, needles, freak flags a-flappin’.  In the ‘60s, Warhol and others received much critical acclaim as pop artists, but it is this particular pop art that the “heads” chose to adorn their bedrooms and living rooms, integral fields and cosmic triggers of many psychotropic journeys. –Davey Parish