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Sway: A Novel Hardcover – January 7, 2008


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. A s Mick Jagger sang in the 1970 songSway, 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.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Zachary Lazar, who took his title from the Keith Richards song of the same name on the Sticky Fingers album, was an infant in the closing years of the 1960s. He therefore writes from copious research rather than memory, but the novel seems to be the appropriate form for his story. Several critics expressed surprise that there could be anything new to say about the overanalyzed decade, but with the exception of the Toronto Star, they agreed that Lazar offers fresh insight into the era’s more ominous undercurrents. Critics praised his vivid, sparkling prose and his success in depicting characters already so well known, as he strips them bare of myth and legend and renders them completely human. “Lazar makes the atmosphere of a decade almost palpable,” claims the Boston Globe, and readers just may forget that Sway is a work of fiction.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; 1 edition (January 7, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316113093
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316113090
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,082,136 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Armchair Interviews on January 9, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Sway is a fictionalized history of different individuals in the 1960s. Some you'll likely recognize: Keith Richards, Mick Jagger, Brian Jones, Charles Manson. Some are more memorable for their deeds, like Bobby Beausoliel, a little known actor and musician until he committed the first Manson murder. Then there's the man who ties them all together. Kenneth Anger, creator of odd, dark, "art" films, one of which just happens to contain all of the previously mentioned people.

While Anger's film is the tie that binds them all together, there is no discernible time line throughout this book. It's a jumble of histories and influences, beginnings and endings, quiet dramatic moments and big memorable moments. One thought or moment leads you into the next, not necessarily chronologically.

This is a re-imagining of what made these people who they were. How Mick and Keith acquired their unique style, and what drove Brian to the edge he would never come back from. What drew Anger to the occult to begin with? What could lead an average boy like Bobby to murder? It's a simpler look at the lives the real people might have had, before we turned them into gods.

Lazar has done a great job of blurring the line. Between actual fact, and the honesty the book seems to exude, it's hard to tell what's real and what's fiction. You get the feeling that he was the proverbial fly on the wall, only recently able to share his knowledge.

Not having lived through the time frame, but being fascinated by it, I have to say this is a really good piece of work. You truly feel transported to that time and place, and that you've gotten to know these untouchable people. Which somehow makes them more iconic.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful By jumpin jack flash on January 4, 2008
Format: Hardcover
this book is amazing.

why not just go into your room, put on 'exile on main st', and 'sticky fingers' while paging through 'hollywood babylon' with 'helter skelter' on dvd?

because you will just get the same old thing, the incredible yet now hopelessly familiar cultural artifacts of the '60's choked with history.

this book strips the sense of future from these now famous or infamous people and reading it you sense the ordinary, even pathetic aspects of the characters who are now in our pantheon of gods.

the economic and social forces of the '60's and their implications are endlessly discussed, yet the nature of humanity, the individual odd isolated person is the true actor of all times and of this book. lazar lets those real individuals speak for themselves in a way not possible in real life. the keith richards of 1964 has been completely obliterated by the one whose autobiography is coming out soon (which i am eager to read but for other reasons!).

one thing we should have learned from history by now is that while we never truly learn from it, we do find some eras are more interesting to wallow in.

i can't think of many more interesting than this.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By David Stine on February 21, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Is it really fiction? Yes and no, and that's what makes it appealing. There is so much "fact" in this novel that the reader feels like a voyeur in the seamier side of the 60s. I admit to being more facinated with the Stones story than the Manson or Anger. As an avid fan for most of my life, I found the Brian, Keith, Mick and Anita Pallenberg characters so believable that those chapters read like lost pieces from the various biographies over the years. Lazar isn't big on the motivations of his characters, but rather lets little vignettes play out, leaving us to make our own decisions about why the events happened. Interestingly enough, Mick and Keith come off as far less sinister and complicit in Brian's death than in many of the biographies. There is a strong homosexual udercurrent throughout the novel (and not seemingly for its own sake) that adds to this decadent portrayal of why and how the 60s ended. Fans of the Stones and those interested in the other side of the "peace and love" 60s should read this book. The glimpses into the early Stones was worth the price of admission for me.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By K. Murray on January 31, 2008
Format: Hardcover
"Sway" is amazing. It is an assault on the senses, with swirling visuals and throbbing music. The writing is full of beautiful, unusual, shocking descriptions. Through Lazar's artistry, public figures become fictional characters. Even with all we know about Mick, Keith, Brian (Jones), Kenneth Anger and Charlie (Manson), the book convincingly creates new personas for them. The dread of the scenes with Manson, the aching search of Anger's narrative, and the violence and tumult of the Rolling Stones are all new discoveries for the reader. This book literally rocks.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Ruby Tuesday on January 6, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Why imagine the 60's? Because it makes a lot more sense than trying to define or analyze them. This was the decade that imagined itself into being and still imagines us today: "Sway" meets it on its own terms. Lazar's imagination is disciplined, precise, a living thing. His evocation of the entwined lives of the Stones, Kenneth Anger, and a Manson accomplice is a riveting read.
If you've ever wondered about how those dingy, brilliant boys channeled Delta blues in sub-middle class mid-Atlantic Home Counties accents and put the edge on a generation, read this book. Lazar has wondered too and he's really good at it.
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