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Sacco And Vanzetti Must Die! Paperback – Bargain Price, May 1, 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
What do comedy and anarchy have in common? That's the question behind this wildly inventive debut novel that recasts the famous anarchists as a pie-throwing slapstick duo. The reader first meets Nic Sacco ("Fatty") and Bart Vanzetti ("Skinny") as comic actors à la Laurel and Hardy in Sacco and Vanzetti Dessert the Cause, a film that mixes classic gags with a bitter rivalry. The duo barrel their way from vaudeville to film, finally striking it big with a series of "knife-grinder" comedies that are as violent as they are funny. Like a good silent comedy, the novel has its share of feints—Binelli cites fictional interviews and scholarly works about the pair's place in film history. But for all the off-kilter humor, there's an undercurrent of social consciousness that calls attention to the xenophobia of the early 20th century (one of the pair's movies is called A Couple of Wops in a Jam), condemning the role ethnic prejudice played in the actual Sacco and Vanzetti's conviction and execution. It's a hefty book, more intellectually satisfying than emotionally so, and it takes a long time for Binelli to bring together his counter-tale with its real-life antecedents. Still, this is an impressive first outing; ambitious in scope and brimming with sharp-edged black humor. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
What if Laurel and Hardy were anarchists? This novel reanimates real-life accused anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti, sent to the electric chair in 1927, in the guise of an Italian-American slapstick duo whose waning fame blurs comedy and creative destruction. Ascending from vaudeville to the big screen with brilliantly subtle pie fights (Sacco and Vanzetti Dessert the Cause) and other radically physical comedy (kangaroo boxing in Sacco and Vanzetti Meet the Heavyweight Champion, Primo Carnera), the team edges their way to prominence with a series of high-concept knife-throwing pictures (Never a Dull Moment, A Couple of Cut-Ups, of course). But a USO show with Bob Hope goes awry, President McKinley gets shot, and the controlled chaos of Sacco and Vanzetti's slapstick becomes explosive enough to land the performers in jail. With his first novel, Binelli adds himself to the list of prodigious young authors working in the medium of pop culture. Although he throws around many questions about public personae, historical memory, and the anarchy of a good laugh, it's clear that Binelli's most abiding intellectual interest is about the social construction of ethnicity. Brendan Driscoll
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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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.
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!