Sway
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Sway

2.8 10
by Zachary Lazar
     
 

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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

Overview

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

Editorial Reviews

Charles Taylor
"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
Liz Brown
"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
Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers
A novel of the '60s revealed in three intertwining narratives, Sway links the early years of the Rolling Stones, the life of avant-garde filmmaker Kenneth Anger, and a young itinerant musician, Bobby Beausoleil, who appeared briefly in an Anger film before joining the madness of the Manson family. Anchored in history, Sway is an evocative novel, dissecting the dark heart of a decade that began with such peace-professing promise.

The '60s unveiled a new freedom of expression, including new sounds and images, rock 'n' roll and independent filmmaking among them. Young men in bands became instant icons, their slashing beat and aggressive rhymes touching a dissonant chord no one fully understood but danced to regardless. The new cinema, less about plot than provocative sexual images, violence, and rapture, began to hold its own sway over the generation's most fertile minds. No one knew where it was headed, but everyone was on for the ride.

Lazar's novel unfolds as a series of quick cuts from one narrative to the next -- like the music and film it describes, it's inchoate and chaotic, finally colliding and gathering momentum toward a terrible conclusion. A masterful reimagining of a turbulent time, Sway is an ironic comment on the art and artists who prefigured this maddening decade and served as its dark inspiration. (Spring 2008 Selection)
Charles Taylor
With its motifs of homosexuality, Satan worship, drug addiction, promiscuity, nihilism and general decadence, 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…If there is a literary antecedent to Sway it's Gordon Burn's 1991 novel Alma, a masterpiece that provides another view of the era and is the greatest novel ever about pop culture. Its real kin, in ambience if not method, is Donald Cammell and Nicolas Roeg's 1970 film "Performance," in which Jagger starred. Like that picture, this brilliant novel is about what's to be found in the shadows, the most terrifying crannies of twisted souls, the darkest gleaming gems.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

A s Mick Jagger sang in the 1970 song"Sway," "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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Library Journal

Lazar's second novel (after Aaron, Approximately) fictionalizes the 1960s, the Rolling Stones, Charles Manson, and Kenneth Anger, successfully capturing both the emotional and the emotionless, including a disturbingly stoic Manson before a murder and the confused, bipolar Rolling Stones on the rise-and sometimes on the run. The story shifts among the stories, linked by filmmaker Anger and actor Bobby Beausoleil, the latter of whom eventually joined the Manson family after acting in Anger's first film; considerable attention is paid to the Stones' internal conflicts, leading to the death of Brian Jones and the band's subsequent success. Although the story is a creative remaking of the 1960s, there is nothing particularly striking about the plotline because we know the end. The story seems like any other Stones biography placed side by side with Kenneth Anger and Charles Manson as a comparative device to bring out the horror. Yet this is also a compliment to Lazar, who's able to make his work seem like nonfiction, encapsulating the aura of the times in much the way that a film captures the essence of real characters. Recommended for large public libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ9/15/07.]
—Stephen Morrow

Kirkus Reviews
The often self-destructive misadventures of "young people severed from all ties to the ordinary world" are chronicled in Lazar's alluringly creepy second novel (Aaron, Approximately, 1998). It tells three linked stories, each populated by iconic figures of the late 1960s. Beautiful-boy drifter and sometime rock musician Bobby Beausoleil wanders into the orbit of a charismatic "messiah" named Charlie, whose southern Californian "family" obediently isolate themselves in order to articulate his vision of uncompromising "love." A few years earlier, several young males survive a frigid winter in an unheated London flat, devoting themselves to the creation of a driving musical style compounded of ingeniously mingled influences and raw technical virtuosity. As Mick, Brian, Keith et al. become the Rolling Stones and their "aloof antistyle" makes them famous, an introverted California boy, Kenneth Anglemyer, having survived the late Depression years and converted his fear of his physically abusive father into an artistic passion, becomes a furtive homosexual cruiser and the celebrated underground filmmaker Kenneth Anger, creator of such abrasive cinema as Scorpio Rising and Flaming Creatures. As pansexual Bobby glides in and out of Anger's life, the Stones grow ever more famous, abuse various substances and one another and attract the attention of the itinerant Anger-who sees in Mick Jagger's polymorphous perversity the "Angel of Light" Lucifer, for which role Anger had groomed the unstable Bobby. The novel moves swiftly, and Lazar handles the numerous segues from one story to another with a veteran film editor's finesse. The novel drags, so to speak, when focused on the Stones's sartorialcampiness, the suicidal shenanigans of their least energetic member Brian Jones and the sniping brought on by sexual sharing of notorious rock molls Anita Pallenberg and Marianne Faithfull. But the ending has a powerful kick, and we're still hearing its echoes. A skillful dramatization of the consequences of making and inhabiting your own world. The Stones ought to write a song about it.
Mark Rozzo
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
Liz Brown
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
Time Out New York
"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."
New York Times Book Review
"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."
Los Angeles Times Book 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."

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780316113090
Publisher:
Little, Brown and Company
Publication date:
01/07/2008
Pages:
272
Product dimensions:
5.75(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.00(d)

Meet the Author

Zachary Lazar graduated from Brown University, has been a Fellow at The Provincetown Fine Arts Works Center, and received the Iowa Writer's Workshop's James Michener/Copernicus Society Prize. His first novel, "Aaron Approximately," was published in 1998.

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Sway 2.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Blue_Goose More than 1 year ago
Recommended by B&N staff and some good word of mouth around store, but overall, not very impressive.
grumpydan More than 1 year ago
I just finished reading Sway by Zachary Lazar, and am a little lost. He takes three actual people from the 60s (Brian Jones, Charles Manson and Kenneth Anger) and intertwine the real life events of their lives to make this novel. I did get the feel of what life was like in that time, and 'getting' to know the early Rolling Stones was fascinating but I didn't get the feel of what Lazar was attempting to do with the book.. He inserted a lot of actual events and then some fictional stuff too. The story was uneven. Did it even have an ending?
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