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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A work of considerable talent and originality, August 8, 2006
This review is from: Sacco And Vanzetti Must Die! (Hardcover)
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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Fun!, July 27, 2006
This review is from: Sacco And Vanzetti Must Die! (Hardcover)
This book is a triumph on a number of levels.

He started to lose me toward the end, but he deals with the subject at hand with such depth that I couldn't put it down.

What do comedy and anarchy have in common? "The ability to enter a crowded pie-shop and see nothing but possibility".

Bravo Signor Binelli!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Baffling, at first, October 13, 2006
By 
Bartolo (New York City, New York USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Sacco And Vanzetti Must Die! (Hardcover)
Two or three chapters into this novel an unaccustomed question occurred: why, exactly, had the author written it? This was a question usually put to rest, when the answer wasn't self-evident, after a few pages of a book. But in this case, I remained puzzled why Binelli had conflated anarchists and vaudevillians. Why give them movie careers? Why bother to give them so un-funny a premise as a knife-throwing act? Binelli's wit and cool precision weren't in keeping with inventions of extravagant whimsy or loopy arbitrariness; this wasn't Woody Allen. The high quality of writing kept me reading, however, and soon the raison d'etre emerged: "Sacco and Vanzetti Must Die!" is a postmodern fiction-writer's equivalent of Meditations on Being Italian-American. Hence the appearance of various stereotypes (e.g. the organ grinder, the Mafiosi) and a cast that includes Primo Carnera, Benito Mussolini and Italo Balbo, and references to other Italians and Italo-Americans from Enrico Caruso to Enrico Fermi, if memory serves. (Binelli's kin were knive-sharpeners, and no doubt other elements here are autobiographical) Once my initial perplexity was resolved, I was free to concentrate on the novel--thoroughly entertaining, imaginative, provocative (as when the real historical figures Sacco and Vanzetti are presented) and quite satisfying. I look forward to Binelli's next effort--which I somehow doubt will center on his ethnicity.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Not Postmodern to Me, December 17, 2008
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This review is from: Sacco And Vanzetti Must Die! (Hardcover)
"Sacco and Vanzetti must die" only obliquely invokes the famous martyred anarchist duo. It is more concerned with the ethnic urban American experience of the first half of the 20th century. If the characters in the book hadn't been named Sacco and Vanzetti, would it have stood on its own? Yes, the book is compelling enough even if it were about an ethnic comedy team and their successes and struggles. Adding Sacco and Vanzetti to the mix adds a tragic quality to the story, a sense of lives wasted but also a mythic sense. The figures in the book are famous but their fame clearly doesn't have the staying power of the real Sacco and Vanzetti.

This goes to the question of modernism which is about breaking barriers, reaching for the new to make a deep cultural point. Here the America of the 20th century, the melting pot, the struggles of labor, the power of the establishment and ongoing struggle we all face in reaching for justice, are wrapped up with the real Sacco and Vanzetti. By turning them into comic figures, all of that mythology is turned on its head and examined anew. The book would be post-modern if these figures morphed into other comedy teams like Martin and Lewis or other duos like Huntley and Brinkley. That would be pastiche, a sending up everything and would miss out on the resonance which this book clearly has.

My only complaint is that the fictional Sacco and Vanzetti didn't come alive for me as characters. They were devices, good ones, compelling but still not connecting.
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Sacco And Vanzetti Must Die!
Sacco And Vanzetti Must Die! by Mark Binelli (Hardcover - May 1, 2006)
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