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Sway: A Novel [Bargain Price] [Paperback]

Zachary Lazar


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Book Description

Feb. 10 2009
Three dramatic and emblematic stories intertwine in Zachary Lazar's extraordinary new novel, SWAY--the early days of the Rolling Stones, including the romantic triangle of Brian Jones, Anita Pallenberg, and Keith Richards; the life of avant-garde filmmaker Kenneth Anger; and the community of Charles Manson and his followers. Lazar illuminates an hour in American history when rapture found its roots in idolatrous figures and led to unprovoked and inexplicable violence. Connecting all the stories in this novel is Bobby Beausoleil, a beautiful California boy who appeared in an Anger film and eventually joined the Manson "family." With great artistry, Lazar weaves scenes from these real lives together into a true but heightened reality, making superstars human, giving demons reality, and restoring mythic events to the scale of daily life.


"One hypnotic tone poem.... It is not the now-historic acts of violence that make Sway so riveting, but its vivid character portraits and decadent, muzzy atmosphere, all rendered with the heightened sensory awareness associated with drugs and paranoia. The near miniaturist precision with which he describes Keith Richards's attempts to master his guitar, Brian Jones's acid trips and Anger's obsessive desire for Beausoleil bring this large-scale tableau into stunning relief." --Liz Brown, Time Out New York

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Back Bay Books; Reprint edition (Feb. 10 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316113115
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316113113
  • ASIN: B0046LUHZ2
  • Product Dimensions: 20.3 x 14 x 2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 249 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #707,864 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. A s Mick Jagger sang in the 1970 songSway, It's just that demon life has got me in its sway. In Lazar's second novel, he uses a number of real demon lives from the '60s—the Stones and their entourage; Kenneth Anger, the filmmaker who shot Scorpio Rising; and Bobby Beausoleil, a musician and Manson family associate—to channel the era's dread and exhilaration. Lazar shows the decade's descent as the culture of youth (represented most clearly by the Rolling Stones as icons of swinging London) responds to assassinations, the war in Vietnam, the repression in Czechoslovakia and the shedding of naïveté about drugs. Lazar sketches out his narrative through discrete episodes: Bobby's first criminal job with Manson; Anger's filming of Scorpio Rising; the breakup of Anita Pallenberg and Brian Jones; and a series of Anger's failed film projects. Anger serves as the narrative's lynchpin, and Lazar could have easily cast him as a tawdry caricature, but to his credit, Lazar understands that, in the '60s, the marginal was central, and he brilliantly highlights the fragility of an era when everyone under thirty has decided that they're an exception—a musician, a runaway, an artist, a star. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

"Lazar has created a powerful, infernal prism through which to view the potent, still-rippling contradictions of the late '60s. It's no mean feat. Despite the era's nearly impossible richness, fresh insights are hard to come by." (Los Angeles Times Book Review Mark Rozzo )

"Zachary Lazar's superb second novel, Sway, reads like your parents' nightmare idea of what would happen to you if you fell under the spell of rock 'n' roll...Elegant and intricate...this brilliant novel is about what's to be found in the shadows, the most terrifying crannies of twisted souls, the darkest gleaming gems." (New York Times Book Review Charles Taylor )

"One hypnotic tone poem.... It is not the now-historic acts of violence that make Sway so riveting, but its vivid character portraits and decadent, muzzy atmosphere, all rendered with the heightened sensory awareness associated with drugs and paranoia. The near miniaturist precision with which he describes Keith Richards's attempts to master his guitar, Brian Jones's acid trips and Anger's obsessive desire for Beausoleil bring this large-scale tableau into stunning relief." (Time Out New York Liz Brown )

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  18 reviews
29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A lot of big things happened in the '60s Jan. 9 2008
By Armchair Interviews - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Sway is a fictionalized history of different individuals in the 1960s. Some you'll likely recognize: Keith Richards, Mick Jagger, Brian Jones, Charles Manson. Some are more memorable for their deeds, like Bobby Beausoliel, a little known actor and musician until he committed the first Manson murder. Then there's the man who ties them all together. Kenneth Anger, creator of odd, dark, "art" films, one of which just happens to contain all of the previously mentioned people.

While Anger's film is the tie that binds them all together, there is no discernible time line throughout this book. It's a jumble of histories and influences, beginnings and endings, quiet dramatic moments and big memorable moments. One thought or moment leads you into the next, not necessarily chronologically.

This is a re-imagining of what made these people who they were. How Mick and Keith acquired their unique style, and what drove Brian to the edge he would never come back from. What drew Anger to the occult to begin with? What could lead an average boy like Bobby to murder? It's a simpler look at the lives the real people might have had, before we turned them into gods.

Lazar has done a great job of blurring the line. Between actual fact, and the honesty the book seems to exude, it's hard to tell what's real and what's fiction. You get the feeling that he was the proverbial fly on the wall, only recently able to share his knowledge.

Not having lived through the time frame, but being fascinated by it, I have to say this is a really good piece of work. You truly feel transported to that time and place, and that you've gotten to know these untouchable people. Which somehow makes them more iconic.

My main thought at the end of this book was: That was really good, but what just happened? Which is how I imagine a lot of people felt at the end of that time in history.

Armchair Interviews says: That was quite a time of amazing change, both good and bad.
22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars its just this evil life that's got you in its sway Jan. 4 2008
By jumpin jack flash - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
this book is amazing.

why not just go into your room, put on 'exile on main st', and 'sticky fingers' while paging through 'hollywood babylon' with 'helter skelter' on dvd?

because you will just get the same old thing, the incredible yet now hopelessly familiar cultural artifacts of the '60's choked with history.

this book strips the sense of future from these now famous or infamous people and reading it you sense the ordinary, even pathetic aspects of the characters who are now in our pantheon of gods.

the economic and social forces of the '60's and their implications are endlessly discussed, yet the nature of humanity, the individual odd isolated person is the true actor of all times and of this book. lazar lets those real individuals speak for themselves in a way not possible in real life. the keith richards of 1964 has been completely obliterated by the one whose autobiography is coming out soon (which i am eager to read but for other reasons!).

one thing we should have learned from history by now is that while we never truly learn from it, we do find some eras are more interesting to wallow in.

i can't think of many more interesting than this.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Can't You Hear ME Knockin'? Feb. 21 2008
By David Stine - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Is it really fiction? Yes and no, and that's what makes it appealing. There is so much "fact" in this novel that the reader feels like a voyeur in the seamier side of the 60s. I admit to being more facinated with the Stones story than the Manson or Anger. As an avid fan for most of my life, I found the Brian, Keith, Mick and Anita Pallenberg characters so believable that those chapters read like lost pieces from the various biographies over the years. Lazar isn't big on the motivations of his characters, but rather lets little vignettes play out, leaving us to make our own decisions about why the events happened. Interestingly enough, Mick and Keith come off as far less sinister and complicit in Brian's death than in many of the biographies. There is a strong homosexual udercurrent throughout the novel (and not seemingly for its own sake) that adds to this decadent portrayal of why and how the 60s ended. Fans of the Stones and those interested in the other side of the "peace and love" 60s should read this book. The glimpses into the early Stones was worth the price of admission for me.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Like nothing you've ever read before Jan. 31 2008
By K. Murray - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
"Sway" is amazing. It is an assault on the senses, with swirling visuals and throbbing music. The writing is full of beautiful, unusual, shocking descriptions. Through Lazar's artistry, public figures become fictional characters. Even with all we know about Mick, Keith, Brian (Jones), Kenneth Anger and Charlie (Manson), the book convincingly creates new personas for them. The dread of the scenes with Manson, the aching search of Anger's narrative, and the violence and tumult of the Rolling Stones are all new discoveries for the reader. This book literally rocks.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars just imagination Jan. 6 2008
By Ruby Tuesday - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Why imagine the 60's? Because it makes a lot more sense than trying to define or analyze them. This was the decade that imagined itself into being and still imagines us today: "Sway" meets it on its own terms. Lazar's imagination is disciplined, precise, a living thing. His evocation of the entwined lives of the Stones, Kenneth Anger, and a Manson accomplice is a riveting read.
If you've ever wondered about how those dingy, brilliant boys channeled Delta blues in sub-middle class mid-Atlantic Home Counties accents and put the edge on a generation, read this book. Lazar has wondered too and he's really good at it.

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