- Paperback: 416 pages
- Publisher: And/Or Press (May 5, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1427624992
- ISBN-13: 978-1427624994
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,642,523 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Banned for Life Paperback – May 5, 2009
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Top Customer Reviews
I suppose I could start by saying that I'm extremely picky about the fiction that's written today. Oftentimes it's unoriginal, uninspired, formulaic garbage that lacks any romance and leaves me feeling frustrated because it's clear that the author is trying far too hard to write the next Harry Potter or Twilight series with the movie and merchandising deals that come along with it. And actually, that's another thing I want to emphasize about the fiction that's coming out today: It tries way too hard. There's something to be said of a story that feels effortless in quality, is quietly charismatic, and isn't simply a knockoff story with different character names. D.R. Haney (who prefers to go by 'Duke,' and I know this because I've had the pleasure of getting to know the author personally via lengthy emails and great discussions we've had and continue to have and whom I can consider a good friend of mine--but isn't the reason I love this book) has really done something special here with Banned for Life, and I'll now take a moment to explain what makes this novel so special.
There are two major threads to the plot of Banned for Life (which I'll refer to as BFL from this point): One is a turbulent romance, and it's not your traditional love story by any means; the other is sort of "search and rescue" in which the main character, Jason Maddox, finds his musical idol after this man mysteriously vanished from the punk rock scene, and Jason's subsequent attempt to breathe life back into the now down-and-out musician. Somewhere in there is also the narrator's back story, which details his transformation into a punk in the punk rock scene of the early 1980s after meeting a rather unforgettable character, to whom a privileged few refer as Peewee (but whose actual name is Bernard). Sprinkle in an adulterous 'cougar,' some recreational drug use, the rise and fall of several attempted bands, and the vivid portrayal of the spirit punk rock and, to be honest, you've barely seen the tip of the proverbial iceberg.
Not only is this book special because of its fresh content, but it reads like a memoir. BFL doesn't feel like fiction at all; the descriptions and dialogue are portrayed so realistically that it feels like you're reading the author's life story, which is a testament to his talent as a writer. Not a single page read gave the impression of cheap manufactured fiction like most of what you'll find today. I would even go so far as to say Haney has created something that could easily be considered a modern classic in the vain of Hemingway and especially Salinger. There is some real, authentic grit to this tale, and it's also inspirational, hopeful, tragic, funny, and incredibly entertaining on all accounts. I wanted to pace myself as I read so I could really absorb and process what I was reading, but this was extremely hard to do because once I'd pick it up, the book was unbelievably difficult to put down. And when I'd stop reading, I found myself thinking about it and couldn't wait to continue.
I will stop my review here so as not to give away anything to those who haven't read this book yet, but I'll end by saying this: You'll be extremely glad you've read this book once you've actually finished reading it. It was one of the most pleasant reading experiences I've had, and I'd liken reading BFL with getting to know someone and becoming great friends with them. This is an extremely personal book from which you'll come away having gotten to know several interesting, layered people that are so realistic you'll find yourself wishing they existed so you could meet them in person. The plot is multidimensional and definitely present at all points in the book, but this is definitely literary fiction and not an adventure (although the book is by no means short on adventure if that's what appeals to you). And although the punk rock scene has a significant role in BFL, you shouldn't feel like you need to have personal experience with that movement or listen to punk rock in order to enjoy this book. Having had little experience with punk before reading this book, it is almost an empirical study of the essence of punk and what it means to live that lifestyle, but without preaching or lingering excessively on the peripheral. Someone else said it better when they suggested that with BFL, Duke has "captured the spirit of a generation."
From the unforgettable first line to the final pages, its power, raging energy and raw emotion make this a pitch perfect punk anthem.
Essentially, it's a coming of age story complete with its own pounding soundtrack. It manages to combine punk sensibility with a strong storyline with a voice that is both achingly honest and nostalgic.
And it's as masculine as hell.
But it's a testament to Haney's ability, that he manages to craft the most womanly of characters in 'Irina' who is at once both unknowable and immediately familiar from the moment she steps onto the page. His innate sympathy and understanding of even the most complex characters makes you care enough about them to want to know what happens to them from the beginning right through to the end.
Although, it's very much of its time and place, it will have resonance for anyone who lived through the late seventies and eighties. Sprinkled with pop culture and political references, Banned For Life will make you feel like you are living alongside its likeable narrator, Jason. But then again, great writers are able to do this aren't they?
This is must for any self-respecting Gen X'er.
This is almost two and a half books in one, but it's so well done the reader won't care about going off into another part of the narrator's story, but will be glad to get back to the heart of the novel. And yet, it's all the heart of the story; it's all important. No part of the novel feels like a digression because it's all excellent.
The voice of "Banned for Life" is spot-on--always sympathetic, never whiny, despite the ups and downs the narrator is describing. We've all been there (had ill-fated or frustrating love affairs, been betrayed by friends, etc.) and this is part of what makes this novel so relatable. At times, it can feel too real, almost exhausting in the way the narrator so accurately captures the angst-filled parts of life.
All in all, this is, however, a very powerful piece of literature. I am glad D.R. Haney wrote it, and I've been recommending this novel as much as I can.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
It's not just that I fell in love with the characters and then couldn't wait to see what would happen...Read more