Sacco and Vanzetti Must Die!

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The Nic Sacco and Bart Vanzetti of Sacco and Vanzetti Must Die! are not exactly the infamous anarchists controversially sentenced to death by the United States government. Instead, in this hilarious first novel, they are silent film stars, slapstick comedians—and this is the story of their rise to fame, from a seedy New York vaudeville club (where they introduce their famous knife-throwing gag) to huge movies and USO tours (where they open, with disastrous results, for Bob Hope). We see them deliberating about ...

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Overview

The Nic Sacco and Bart Vanzetti of Sacco and Vanzetti Must Die! are not exactly the infamous anarchists controversially sentenced to death by the United States government. Instead, in this hilarious first novel, they are silent film stars, slapstick comedians—and this is the story of their rise to fame, from a seedy New York vaudeville club (where they introduce their famous knife-throwing gag) to huge movies and USO tours (where they open, with disastrous results, for Bob Hope). We see them deliberating about who—one will be fat, the other skinny; one will be contemplative, the other impulsive—they should be. But slowly—as slapstick becomes a stand-in for anarchic freedom, as the characters grow out of their on-screen roles, and as their careers decline amidst controversy—the fictional Sacco and Vanzetti begin to merge with their namesakes.

Dalkey Archive Press

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
one story on paper, one floating somewhere in the ether of History, both running parallel to each other and both telling us a little something about how stories (both fictional and historical) are made at all.' -Beau Golwitzer, Bookslut

Dalkey Archive Press

Publishers Weekly
What do comedy and anarchy have in common? That's the question behind this wildly inventive debut novel that recasts the famous anarchists as a pie-throwing slapstick duo. The reader first meets Nic Sacco ("Fatty") and Bart Vanzetti ("Skinny") as comic actors la Laurel and Hardy in Sacco and Vanzetti Dessert the Cause, a film that mixes classic gags with a bitter rivalry. The duo barrel their way from vaudeville to film, finally striking it big with a series of "knife-grinder" comedies that are as violent as they are funny. Like a good silent comedy, the novel has its share of feints Binelli cites fictional interviews and scholarly works about the pair's place in film history. But for all the off-kilter humor, there's an undercurrent of social consciousness that calls attention to the xenophobia of the early 20th century (one of the pair's movies is called A Couple of Wops in a Jam), condemning the role ethnic prejudice played in the actual Sacco and Vanzetti's conviction and execution. It's a hefty book, more intellectually satisfying than emotionally so, and it takes a long time for Binelli to bring together his counter-tale with its real-life antecedents. Still, this is an impressive first outing; ambitious in scope and brimming with sharp-edged black humor. (July) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
This book opens with a few pages about the historic Sacco and Vanzetti, and brief passages about them and their trial are interspersed throughout, but the primary focus is a fictitious comedy team with the same name. Real characters, both the famous (e.g., Bob Hope) and the obscurely bizarre (e.g., Borah Minevich and the Harmonica Rascals), interact with fictitious ones like cowboy star Big Jack Chester and film historian Hylo Pierce, as in E.L. Doctorow's Ragtime. While tracing the careers of the imaginary duo from vaudeville to silent films to talkies to their own trial in the 1950s for stealing the act of a poor Italian American knife sharpener and thrower, first novelist Binelli satirizes and subverts stereotypes about Italian Americans, the entertainment industry, politics, and even the real Sacco and Vanzetti. He cleverly links anarchy and slapstick, as in Bart Vanzetti's observation that his acting was meant to "live out a vicarious anarchy, and perhaps goad it along as well." The novel itself may seem initially anarchic, but Binelli's work is as intricately structured as his characters' knife acts and pie fights. Highly recommended for both public and academic libraries.-Jim Dwyer, California State Univ. Lib., Chico Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781564784452
  • Publisher: Dalkey Archive Press
  • Publication date: 3/1/2006
  • Series: American Literature Series
  • Pages: 353
  • Product dimensions: 8.40 (w) x 5.50 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Mark Binelli is the author of the novel Sacco and Vanzetti Must Die! and a contributing editor at Rolling Stone and Men's Journal. Born and raised in the Detroit area, he now lives in New York City.

Dalkey Archive Press

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 6, 2006

    Literate, thoughtful, thought-provoking, and thoroughly entertaining

    The Nic Sacco and Bart Vanzetti in Mark Binelli's novel 'Sacco And Vanzetti Must Die!' are not the infamous anarchists executed for treason by the United States government, but film stars and slapstick comedians who rose to fame through a seedy New York vaudeville club, then on to Hollywood films and USO tours (where they opened with disastrous results for Bob Hope). Eventually their careers decline , slapstick becomes a kind of stand-in for anarchic freedom, the two performers begin to merge with their more infamous namesakes. An alternate history of the 20th Century, 'Sacco And Vanzetti Must Die! ' is a work of considerable talent and originality, documenting author Mark Binelli as a writer who has mastered wit and storytelling to produce a highly recommended, minor masterpiece of literate, thoughtful, thought-provoking, and thoroughly entertaining fiction.

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