Sway: A Novel Paperback – Bargain Price, Feb 10 2009
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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.)
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"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 )
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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.
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.
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.