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This Is Burning Man Hardcover – August 4, 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
It's tough to categorize Burning Man. Is it an excuse for thousands of anarchic, sexually uninhibited people to do drugs and destroy things? A massive, do-it-yourself arts festival for the punk avant-garde? Or is it the "spontaneous flowering" of a new, subversive culture? Reason magazine editor Doherty explores these definitions and others in this gushing yet well-researched mix of journalism and memoir. Burning Man began in the mid-1980s, when some friends burned a wooden effigy on a California beach. The event soon relocated to the Nevada desert, where, apparently, the civilized world's rules no longer applied. People could play golf with burning toilet paper rolls or whip each other at the Temple of Atonement. One year, someone piled 10 tons of half-burned pianos on top of each other, creating a huge "metapercussion instrument." Another year, a man calling himself "Dr. Megavolt" donned a metal suit and danced with electricity generated by a towering Tesla coil. By 2003, more than 30,000 pilgrims were participating, and Burning Man had become a $6-million "culture business" that many saw as a sellout of its humble origins. Doherty is an enthusiastic devotee, and he adds his own memories to this account. This insider's look at a cornerstone of American subculture is informative, though nearly as chaotic as Burning Man itself. Photos.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
True-believer Doherty loves Burning Man, the annual festival for aging Aquarians and seekers of all New Agey^B stripes that involves the erection in the Nevada desert of a giant statue alongside a temporary city of alternative lifestyle enthusiasts practicing, to varying degrees, alternative models of commerce, artistic pursuit, and other social and recreational gambits for about a week. Then the giant statue gets torched, and everybody returns to presumably more humdrum everyday pursuits. The fest encourages a "no spectators" attitude to the effect that celebrants' doings aren't to be reported, and Doherty attended four times before he "dreamed of writing about it for public consumption." Now he presents a combination of what he witnessed and experienced and "journalistic re-creations" of the stories and reminiscences of some 100 interviewees, including people he "just lived moments with." How sixties can you get? This magical approach, while it makes the book questionable as verifiable social reportage, serves the BM ethos well. A lovingly, if not crisply, written tribute. Mike Tribby
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Top Customer Reviews
The first part of the book describes the history of the burning man event, how Larry Harvey one day decided to burn a wooden man in the golden gate park and how it created an audience of people who organized around the burning of the man. He decided to do it again and slowly the burning man event was created. It describes how Larry hooked up with several other groups and how they moved to the middle of nowhere, in the desert. The stories about the early days of the burning man event are insane and clearly describes the sense of freedom that's part of the burning man event.
The second part of the book focuses more on the later years of burning man and describes the different viewpoints as it follows several different people and their burning man history. It talks about the art creation, the city build-up, the city cleaning, the expressions of total freedom and the shared sense of making the event a better place. Near the end of the book, it tells how burning man has now grown and how, unfortunately, the original atmosphere started changing and how everything is slightly more controlled. That's probably inevitable for growing an event like burning man.
The book is exceptionally well researched and the writing style is clear. The author tells the many stories from his research while linking it with his own experience and his own opinion. I enjoyed reading burning man, recommended for everyone interested in the burning man event.
Read this, you wont be disappointed.
If you have never been to the event, and you want to know what it's like, and your friends haven't told you a thousand stories, read this book.
If you have been to That Event In The Desert, read this book.
If your friends can't finish a story about Burning Man in any sort of cohesive way, read this book.
Brian Doherty gets it and is also able to tell the stories about it in a compelling and gorgeous way.
read this book.
If you've never attended the event, this book is NOT a primer on what to do or how to prepare. Go to the Burning Man site, and read through the survival guide.