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What We Do Is Secret Paperback – April 12, 2005


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What We Do Is Secret + Lexicon Devil:  The Fast Times and Short Life of Darby Crash and the Germs + What We Do Is Secret
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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* "This is supposed to be about Darby Crash," Rockets tells us at the outset, but most of the secrets the homeless, 13-year-old street kid shares are not about the leader of the formative L.A. punk band the Germs but about himself, instead. In his jittery, oddly addictive, street-smart, pun-spurting, stream-of-consciousness style, he tells us about a single night in the life two months after his sometime lover, Darby, has committed suicide. The beautifully realized setting of this semiautobiographical novel is Hollywood in 1980, when punk has captured the attention and imagination of a crazy coterie of Southern California kids. But punk, Rockets explains, isn't a style; it's a way of life that, in his case, is lived on "home street home." And, for an abandoned-at-birth child of drug addicts, it's an identity. After all, Rockets was one of Darby's boys. But who is he now, and, if he survives this drug-riddled night of hustling, narrow escapes, frenetic music, and death, who might he become? And where will he find love? Like his first novel, War Boy (2000), Hilsbery's second is a hauntingly up-close-and--personal look at the hellish life of a troubled, baffled, different kind of kid for whom many readers will come to care enormously. Michael Cart
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Chapter 1
This is supposed to be about Darby
Crash, but I don’t think it’s going to be. All my so-called life it
seems it’s this boy here and that girl there and once they see
my Germs burn and hear it’s real they know what they want
as in word on the old-school LA punk scene and they know
how to get it as in Tell it, Rockets, but now that I’m at their
service sitting down to let my fingers do the talking the first
clue card on the table says the only secrets I’m spilling are
mine all mine alone, which sounds like here comes trouble if
missing in traction from slippage in the spillage are the bleedall-
about-it excess-clusives that all those jacks and all those
jills are pitching pretty pennies to read.
Like with yours coolly for instance, door number one
there’s the sex stuff that’s nothing to do with punk at all, and
door number two there’s stuff like what happened that night at
the Nast Western that’s punk as fuckety-fuck, cross my cold
cold heart and hope to cry baby cry, but still I’m not proud of,
how could I be. And I try to be all, No Fear and No Regrets
but there’s one kind of fear you can’t exactly high-five with
and make it all better now, that fear of who you really are,
ocean deep inside.
And I’ve had it for a while. Though not long enough to get
over it, which I guess I will someday. So maybe what I should
do right now is just say Shine, and go back to the Jell-O factory
and wait bloody wait on someday bloody someday.
But I hate waiting.
I hate lots of things. I hate poseurs and trendoids and especially
I hate vals and especially especially that Valley hesher
hang called Rock Corporation where all these clueless Germettes
who didn’t know who I was picked me out for a pounding,
and when I defended myself these dumb buff surf boys
from Seamy Valley jumped in screaming, “Don’t hit a girl, faggot.”
I hate the Bible and J. D. Salinger and Kurt Vonnegut. I
hate anything to do with fifties-based rock. I hate the Frito
Bandito. I hate Exene because she lied to me, once, and Hellin
Killer because she didn’t, twice. I hate that kid Elliot Mess because
he’s dirty, he’s like so dirty he’s contagious, and I think of
him with Darby and it makes me want to puke.
I hate every single waitress at the IHOP on Sunset across
from Hollywood High. I hate picture postcards with jackalopes
and Jake the Alligator Man. I hate that chicken game
where you throw the knife between your fingers. I hate retarded
punk names like Donna Rhia and Adam Bomb and
Dinah Cancer. I hate Aleister Crowley and Jimmy Page. I hate
Alice Cooper because he plays golf and I hate Avon Products
too, Darby’s mom had a serious case of collection infection,
you had to juggle rubber duckies just to close the bathroom
door.
I hate the Dils, they’re fakes, they’re not Communists. I
hate Farrah Fawcett-Majors. I hate sniffing spot remover. I
hate Rod Stewart haircuts. I hate that stuff that comes in a can,
Party Slime or whatever, I hate when you get it in your hair. I
hate all those loser chicks, the Crash Trash. I hate Spock ears.
I hate Gerber because when someone passes out at a party
she’ll take a straw and blow vodka down their throat, and the
idea is they’ll wake up puking, but sometimes they puke without
waking and that’s how Jimi Hendrix died. I hate the way
Darby comes in too soon on “No God,” on Lexicon Devil, after
the instrumental part, and ruins it.
I hate telemarketing and phone sex and maps to the homes
of the oh my stars. I hate that dude who nails himself to the
Volkswagen. I hate the Greeks and the Romans and all that
shit about how every advanced civilization is basically homosexual.
I hate that sick fuck chickenhawk Tar. I hate all the HB
bands with their fake English accents. I hate people who say
G.I. means Germs Incognito when it’s Guerrilla Insurgency,
and I hate the Doors. I hate heroin. I hate Amber. I hate Casey
Cola. I hate dry hits. I hate the fuckin tarantula that’s in The
Decline
. I hate all those little punk trashettes where you walk
all over them in your boots in Daddy’s living room and to
them it’s “having sex.” I hate Flipper’s Roller Boogie Palace
and I hate people who say Mohawk when they mean Mohican.
I hate that Queen song “Another One Bites the Dust.” And I
hate Scientology, oh I hate it wicked bad, Darby said there
were twenty-six meanings for the word the and he liked to
know exactly what they meant, he learned that from Scientology.
I love one thing in all LA, I love the purple sky at night.
NO_CONTENT_IN_FEATURE

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Villard (April 12, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812973097
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812973099
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,403,454 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Thorn Kief Hillsbery's novel What We Do is Secret (Villard) is a finalist for the 2006 Lambda Literary Award in fiction. His first novel, War Boy, was published by HarperCollins and translated into German, Spanish, and Catalan. He recently received a Hertog Fellowship to assist author Brenda Wineapple with her upcoming book about Emily Dickinson and Thomas Wentworth Higginson. He teaches creative writing in programs at Columbia University and lives in Manhattan.

Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
5 star
70%
4 star
0%
3 star
0%
2 star
30%
1 star
0%
See all 10 customer reviews
At first, I was kind of unsure about the book.
Natacon
The emotions are genuine and the lyrical, poetry-like writing is incredible.
Sidney
This is such a dazzling literary performance it ought to come with shades.
Nathan Cameron

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Son of Nietzsche on April 14, 2006
Format: Paperback
Kief Hillsbery is a god. Ok, so clearly I'm star-struck. But, if you've read his first book, `War Boy', then you are already aware of his genius and will not be surprised that this latest book has been nominated for a Lambda Literary Award (results due out 13 May).

Like all significant works of fiction, `What we do is secret' is not concerned with a `plot' per se - instead, the stimulation comes from a symbiosis between the individual characters and the breathtakingly original prose. Rocket is a young teenage punk with a compelling mix of naivety and world-weariness. In a sense, he's seen it all...at least regarding the darker side of human nature - abandoned by drug addict parents, homeless, he turns tricks in Hollywood to make cash. Haunted by the death of his mentor, Darby Crash, the punk god who committed suicide a year previously, Rocket is unsure where he stands in relation to the world. Long since integrated into a life of punk culture and hustling, in `What we do is secret' he tests his boundaries as regards sex, relationships, drugs, the ability to trust, and the deeper conundrum of whether to live or die.

It is impossible to categorise this work, since its originality demands that readers must experience it for themselves. Indeed, this is not a book that can be passively read, but is rather a work of art which with which the reader must actively engage. The prose is immersed in a scintillating rhythm. Reading this work is almost like being on an acid trip - where your brain is so liberated that individual words can spark off connotations and associations which you just `get' without them having to be vocalised.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Natacon on January 12, 2006
Format: Paperback
I recently picked this book up while just browsing through a store. At first, I was kind of unsure about the book. The wording is certainly different from what you'd expect, but after the first 50 pages, the book gets going. I recommend it for anyone who has just a little bit of patience. Once it starts, you'll quickly fall for Rockets' way of wording the book.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Benoit Lamy on January 25, 2006
Format: Paperback
I was drawn to this book by the cover photograph that you will also see in the Beautiful Losers exhibition and book. And like the artists and photographers of Beautiful Losers, Thorn Hillsbery is the real thing in this time of fakes like J.T. Leroy. The adventures of Rockets on one night in the Los Angeles punk world of bands like the Germs and X and TSOL are told in the voice of a street kid who knows the streets and the street life but is brave enough and smart enough to choose creation over destruction. This, I think, must be the author's story, and many real-life people are included. It is written in a way that grabs you and shakes you and never completely lets you go. Just like the best punk rock and the best street art. Don't miss this.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Guy Honion on May 1, 2005
Format: Paperback
A fresh work that's sexy and intimate, funny and wise. Its vocabulary is one unusual for this reader, but its idiom is a cousin to Salinger and the movie American Grafitti. Super-vivid in language and circumstance, the central character's journey sheds light on a "darker" side of our culture while breezily including the reader, trusting us, and investing in us a hipness and understanding that makes the piece all that more personal and satisfying. Get this book, and "let Rockets drive."
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Nathan Cameron on February 7, 2006
Format: Paperback
This is such a dazzling literary performance it ought to come with shades. Quite a recommendation when you consider it's all set on one night after the sun goes down. Thorn Kief Hillsbery is a writer in the tradition of Rimbaud, Joyce, and Jean Genet, with a dash of Patti Smith thrown in for good measure. Don't suppose you need to know or care about punk rock or punk rockers to appreciate this book. Rich in language and original in every detail, it takes you places you'll never forget, faster than you can say "Rockets."
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