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Please Step Back Paperback – April 21, 2009


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Melville House (April 21, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1933633700
  • ISBN-13: 978-1933633701
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 6.4 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,843,942 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. New Yorker editor, music critic and novelist Greenman spins a fresh and explosive new novel about a fictionalized rock 'n' soul star who embraced and revolutionized American counterculture. Robert Franklin, aka Rock Foxx, quickly climbs the ladder from first single to first Billboard hit to the rhinestone stardom of a Rolling Stone cover. In the time of the Beatles, the Stones and Bob Dylan, Foxx injects his unique sound with hints of Otis Redding, Ray Charles and Curtis Mayfield. He sings to make an impression, singing about freedom that was constricting and how, even if you had everything, the mind (and the critics) were never satisfied. His fall from grace—and the spotlight—is as much about character as it is about the unrealized hopes and dreams of the turbulent '60s. McSweeney's regular Greenman (A Circle Is a Balloon and Compass Both) takes readers behind the rhythm and into the soul of a musician and the culture that made and destroyed him. It's a haunting vision of a man, the music and a culture, driven by the author's undeniable passion for his subject. (May)
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From The New Yorker

“The Foxxes were a popular Bay Area rock and soul band led by the Rock Foxx (born Robert Franklin). The group made its name in the late sixties with a pair of ebullient anthems, ‘Make It Better’ and ‘We All Need a Place in the Sun.’ ” So reads an encyclopedia of rock and roll owned by Franklin’s estranged wife in this fictional history of the Foxxes’ ascent to psychedelic superstardom. Alternating between her perspectives and Franklin’s, Greenman maintains a playful and elastic style, as if every line had come from a Foxxes song. Pauses are not just pregnant; they are “carrying twins.” As the band becomes embroiled in drug culture and the marriage starts to dissolve, we are reminded that “you can only paint the town red so many times before you begin to bleed.”
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More About the Author



Ben Greenman is an editor at The New Yorker and the author of the underground indie hits Please Step Back, Superbad, and A Circle is a Balloon and Compass Both. His short fiction and music criticism has appeared in The New Yorker, the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Paris Review, and he writes a regular comedy column for McSweeney's. He lives in Brooklyn.

Customer Reviews

3.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Carolyn F. on December 7, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I bought this book after hearing a plug on NPR. Then I had to plug away to get through it. Personally, I found the prose staccato and superficial, and I was never able to connect with the characters. Hard to think you can go wrong with a book on sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll, but this one has a style not everyone will appreciate.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Isaac Gregoire on September 24, 2009
Format: Paperback
The author is clearly channeling his own invented lead character in his phrasing; Please Step Back is a punchy, sweeping rush through the 60s and 70s, following the cliche-by-now arc of a funkadelic rock star's rise to the top of the charts and world domination.

The story is surprisingly deep and fresh, but misses on one note: the female characters are cliche and uninteresting, assuming mostly passive roles of sex acts or pining inaction. They are groupies or madonnas, sluts or domestic stowaways of affection. Since at least 1/3 of the book follows the emotions of introspective love interest Betty, couldn't she have a presence as strong as Rock Foxx's? Or would that ruin the pacing?

Regardless, these slow stretches end quick, and then the beat resumes.
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By T. Ptacek on July 18, 2012
Format: Paperback
About halfway through the book, I realized that I did not care about any of the main characters. The author is so invested in his stylistic writing, that he does not help us understand any of the characters' motivations; specifically, why is Foxx so disconnected from his family? Don't bother with this book.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful By W. Stewart on May 4, 2009
Format: Paperback
Ben Greenman's "Please Step Back" takes us through the life of a true funk-rock heavyweight, a Vietnam-era star named Rock Foxx who blends the musical stylings of Miles Davis, Phil Spector, and Sly Stone with the unfettered debauchery of Jimmy Page and Motley Crue. Greenman's encyclopedic knowledge of the music and culture of the sixties and seventies emanates from every pore of "Please Step Back"; his fictional character, Rock Foxx, seems not only plausible but exceedingly real, in no small part because of Greenman's ability to recreate the tumult and passion of the era.

Yet fame is fleeting. Foxx succumbs to the same tragedy that befell so many before him: an inescapable snowball of sex, drugs, and fame. And it continues to today. As of only two years ago, Britney Spears had fizzled, her popularity tapering off dramatically from that of her previous, turn-of-the-century self. Radiohead's 1995 album "The Bends" predicted (albeit incorrectly) that the band would rise too fast to survive, like a surfacing deep-sea diver. And yet, although mega-music stars aren't the most sympathetic characters around, it is hard not to feel some amount of empathy for people that become trapped in a uncontrollable lifestyle and environment. This holds all the more true for Rock Foxx. First you're curious about him, then you cheer him on, then you idolize him, and, finally, you empathize with him. A true rollercoaster journey is lying in the pages of "Please Step Back."
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