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Hello, my name is Valorie. I have a Master's Degree in History and a license to teach-- I have been both university professor and public school teacher. Currently, I am a middle school social studies teacher. I love horror movies and spooky things. Every day is Halloween. I am also a passionate book blogger.

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Book Review: 23:27 by H.L. Roberts

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Book Review: Sway by Zachary Lazar

Title: Sway
Author(s): Zachary Lazar
Genre: Fiction - General
Finished: March 26, 2009

I honestly don't know what to make of Sway by Zachary Lazar. On one hand it is a somewhat fictional telling of the early The Rolling Stones and the Charles Manson murders, based on real life and about real people. On the other hand, it's a dreamlike sort of novel where every human emotion and action is given a significance that isn't typically true to real life. Purposefully, I think, Lazar wove his words into chaotic (almost) anti-poetry- beautiful because it is raw and aggressive- in order to put this special significance to things. The entire book has a surreal quality that makes it even more difficult to accept the reality of what is happening. Now, none of this is bad. I quite like a book that reads like a fractured and distorted fairytale. I said I didn't know what to make of the book, not that I did not like it. Sway, as I've said, takes two different stories and winds them together. Lazar recounts the rise of The Rolling Stones, some of his information falsified but some of it quite true (I've seen the picture of Mick in the Uncle Sam top hat and the Omega t-shirt), and the Charles Manson murders. These two isolated groups and the events included are connected by a thin thread that goes by the name Kenneth Anger. Anger is a struggling filmmaker whose avant-garde styles of imagery and symbolism make him less than ideal for the mainstream, which is just where he seems satisfied to be.

From the way the book describes itself, I was thinking that the two stories would intertwine on a deeper level then they did, and this was a bit disappointing. I guess it was meant to be this way. I gave me to see how things, even great things that seem so grand and therefore isolated within their own distinct worlds, can touch and brush and never impact. How sometimes you just manage to miss something larger than simple life allows without even knowing it. There are moments, though, that the book is starkly real and you no longer feel the invader of a dream. The characters cease to be actors or players on a grand stage and become actual people, no longer characters but objects of existence just as we all are. Flawed, confused, prone to mistakes, and sometimes empty. Sometimes acting without excuse or reason. Sometimes just inflicting. Brian Jones is an abusive mess who is so out of touch with his own needs that he is self-destructive, Bobby just ambles along and thoughtlessly does whatever he decides to do for no good reason, and Anger doesn't seem to fight for anything and only exists to make his films. The anger and escalating chaos of the 60s and 70s are depicted nicely in Sway. Vietnam, militaristic groups, disenchantment with the government and society, and the rejection of the early 60s Summer of Love ideals brought about a new society and destroyed the former not with a whimper but a bang. In fact, many of them. There is a sense, even when reading nonfiction of the time, that America was ready to explode. Indeed, much of the world was. The Rolling Stones and Charles Manson both, in their own ways, embody this feeling. The Rolling Stones is the passion, the rebellion, the new face of youth and expression while Manson is just how bad it can get. Though if Sway did anything, it made me like The Rolling Stones just a little more.

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