Friday, January 04, 2008

Pg. 69: Zachary Lazar's "Sway"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Zachary Lazar's Sway.

About the novel, from the publisher:
Three dramatic and emblematic stories intertwine in Zachary Lazar's extraordinary new novel, Sway -- the early days of the Rolling Stones, including the romantic triangle of Brian Jones, Anita Pallenberg, and Keith Richards; the life of avant-garde filmmaker Kenneth Anger; and the community of Charles Manson and his followers.

Lazar illuminates an hour in American history when rapture found its roots in idolatrous figures and led to unprovoked and inexplicable violence. Connecting all the stories in this novel is Bobby Beausoleil, a beautiful California boy who appeared in an Anger film and eventually joined the Manson 'family.' With great artistry, Lazar weaves scenes from these real lives together into a true but heightened reality, making superstars human, giving demons reality, and restoring mythic events to the scale of daily life.
Among the early praise for Sway:
"As Mick Jagger sang in the 1970 song 'Sway,' 'It's just that demon life has got me in its sway.' In Lazar's second novel, he uses a number of real 'demon lives' from the '60s — the Stones and their entourage; Kenneth Anger, the filmmaker who shot Scorpio Rising; and Bobby Beausoleil, a musician and Manson family associate — to channel the era's dread and exhilaration. Lazar shows the decade's descent as the culture of youth (represented most clearly by the Rolling Stones as icons of swinging London) responds to assassinations, the war in Vietnam, the repression in Czechoslovakia and the shedding of navet about drugs. Lazar sketches out his narrative through discrete episodes: Bobby's first criminal job with Manson; Anger's filming of Scorpio Rising; the breakup of Anita Pallenberg and Brian Jones; and a series of Anger's failed film projects. Anger serves as the narrative's lynchpin, and Lazar could have easily cast him as a tawdry caricature, but to his credit, Lazar understands that, in the '60s, the marginal was central, and he brilliantly highlights the fragility of an era when 'everyone under thirty has decided that they're an exception — a musician, a runaway, an artist, a star.'"
Publishers Weekly, starred review
Learn more about Sway at the publisher's website.

Read Lazar's playlist matching songs to the chapters in Sway.

Zachary Lazar's first novel is Aaron, Approximately. He graduated from Brown University, has been a Fellow at the Provincetown Fine Arts Works Center, and received the Iowa Writers Workshops James Michener/Copernicus Society Prize.

The Page 69 Test: Sway.

--Marshal Zeringue