Monday, August 29, 2005

Book Review: Fury's Hour

Fury’s Hour: a (sort of) punk manifesto
By Warren Kinsella
Published by Random House
Trade paperback
$27.00 CDN
Reviewed as an uncorrected proof. (Meaning, short of a few grammatical changes, my money says the bulk remained unchanged.)

“Is punk dead?” Not an age-old question. In fact, most people couldn’t care less and those who care more are blue in the face. Me, I don’t think it ever went away and started way before Warren Kinsella presumes it did.

Fury’s Hour is the author’s attempt to make youthful angst matter more than just a fashion statement. Like many of us who came of age with “the fury” in our ears, hearts, and minds, we’re getting old and stiff. Yet, unlike the boomers and their millennial spawn, we had more hope than money. Still do; unless you get called to the bar and inhabit the back rooms of the nation’s capital with the prime minister. Then you have money and a questionable rolodex.

I suppose I take issue with someone who on one hand rests back on his greying laurels and pronounces that Johnny Lydon isn’t punk rock and in fact sold out. Yet, on the other dismisses Prime Minister Paul Martin in his book and on his web site kisses Jean Chretien’s ass. Who the fuck are you to decide what is “punk” or who “sold out,” counselor? To underscore this, it’s published by Random House, the largest English-language publisher in the world. Not that that in itself is a bad thing, but if you’re going to espouse the do-it-yourself (DIY) ethos, then, well I’m not sure the media conglomerate is necessarily the way to do it. Then again, that never bothered fellow Random House author, Naomi Klein when she released the hole-filled tome No Logo. Perhaps they wrung their hands together over a wine-spritzer and expensed the lunch.

As a primer on what happened, who happened, what to read, and what to listen to, Kinsella is pretty much on the money. It’s an historical read for kids today. But, as he confesses, so are many others. Indeed, Maximum Rock and Roll still keeps illicit photocopiers humming in drone-filled cubicle factories everywhere. And now there’s this internet thingy.

So what does Fury’s Hour have to offer that these other guys & gals don’t? It’s one of the few that documents what happened in Canada. And a lot did. Also, Kinsella ably draws on his prior investigative reportage on Nazism in this country A chilling reminder that Canada is definitely not a hippie-pot-smoking utopia. Far fucking from it.

On the other side of the zealotry coin, he addresses the splintering of Vancouver’s the Subhumans and the formation of Direct Action. DA were a band of terrorists bent on blowing shit up while trying not to hurt people. They failed. People did get hurt. Kudos to Kinsella for speaking up about this. Too many placards and not enough reason changes nothing.

Having made these salient points, he proceeds to write about feminism and racism and punk. A valiant attempt, but honestly, it sucked. Stick to what you know, sir.

With that, then, we look to the kids. Are they alright? Did we get our point across? Well, sort of, I guess. What was our point exactly? Dress funny? Swear a lot? Yell and scream? Carry placards? Adopt poor grooming habits? To find out for sure, Kinsella got warm and fuzzy with Blink 182 and Good Charlotte—Hey, I saw that! Don’t fuckin’ through the rotten tomato at me, jerkface! I’m not the one reading Billboard to find out what the kids are listening to these days! And if I did, I’d know that Rancid hasn’t made any appearances on that list lately. In MRR, maybe.

So, is punk dead, maaaaaan? No, but Kinsella and I are old farts and should keep our fuckin’ noses out of it. Punk is about energy and hope and urgency and now. Punk is rock and roll. And when you’re past it, you’ll know. No needs to tell you. You start thinking about something you didn’t when you yelled and screamed and thrashed out with energy you had no idea what to do with. You realize there is a future, and you’re not dreaming. The other side isn’t so bad, but living in the past is wrong. Dead wrong. It ain’t punk, Mr. Kinsella. Give it up because the Kids are Alright. They don’t need us.

So, in true BBC/Nick Hornby-style, here are main points again:

10. Warren Kinsella is a Liberal apologist and Chretien cheerleader. If that ain’t enough to get your Canuck blood boiling, then you voted for Teflon Jean.

9. Kinsella makes no apologies for the above and nor should he.

8. I make no apologies for despising the Liberals and Chretien and nor should I.

7. I am not a Conservative. Nor will Liberal door knockers threatening that my NDP vote will put them in power change my mind. So get the gun away from my head.

6. Fury’s Hour is a late-boomer middle-age crisis memoir.

5. Fury’s Hour demonstrates that middle-age crises have definitely changed. But I can still wait for mine…and I do have to wait.

4. Kinsella has clearly read High Fidelity.

3. Fury’s Hour demonstrates that Kinsella and I could not sit down over a pint and talk politics.

2. Fury’s Hour demonstrates that Kinsella and I could sit down over a pint and talk music.

1. In the end, point #2 is all that matters.

Thank you and good night.

1 comment:

Katherine said...

Just met you at Book City about an hour ago, and decided there was still time to read tonight...

You've successfully scared me off the Kinsella book, although I wasn't entirely comfortable with age being used as an argument. Not everyone gets to live their lives in the order the mass marketers tell us to, and not everyone passes through time in the same way.

Have you read Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the Twentieth Century, by Greil Marcus? He traces punk as a sociological, political, and artistic phenomenon back to at least medieval times. Really. There's also a lot about the concept of youth and what it really means to be "young".

The book was published in 1989, so it's arguably "missing" analysis of events that have happened since then, but the cartoons, photos, and other marginalia are worth the cover price alone. The text is a dense read that only gives the reader the occasional break, but it's worth getting through. Recommended for those who are into the topic.

I'm looking forward to reading your future (and past, since I haven't read all the entries yet) posts. Thanks for sharing.