“Anger is an energy” – John Lydon: books inspired by punk

“Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?”
― John Lydon

With John Lydon in court recently railing against the use of The Sex Pistols music in the upcoming Danny Boyle directed Disney series ‘Pistol’, based on Steve Cook’s memoir “Lonely Boy: Tales from a Sex Pistol”, we thought now might be a good time to look at the legacy of punk in literature.

Punk was the incendiary music and fashion movement that exploded into the public’s attention in the 1970’s and is one of the most recognisable modern movements. Its lasting effects on our culture are huge but sometimes difficult to exactly pin down.  The D.I.Y ethos certainly inspired a generation to get up and do something. The old notion that you had to follow certain traditional paths to achieve your goals was debunked forever and replaced by one of self-reliance.

But beyond that, its influences are much more nebulous. It has now entered a point where punk music and books set in the 70’s and 80’s are regarded more as historical artefacts than revolutionary manifestos. And recently there have been a couple of really fine examples of works originating here in New Zealand that have their conceptual focus round the punk movement, such as David Coventry’s Ngaio Marsh longlisted Dance Prone, set in America in the 1980’s with a plot that follows a touring punk band and Anthony Sang’s compelling graphic novel The Dharma Punks.  Below are just a few other books inspired by punk available to borrow from the library.

Dance prone / Coventry, David
“During their 1985 tour, two events of hatred and stupidity forever change the lives of a band’s four members. Neues Bauen, a post-hardcore Illinois group homing in on their own small fame, head on with frontman Conrad Wells sexually assaulted and guitarist Tone Seburg wounded by gunshot. The band staggers forth into the American landscape, traversing time and investigating each of their relationships with history, memory, authenticity, violence and revelling in transcendence through the act of art.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The dharma punks / Sang, Anthony
“Auckland, New Zealand, 1994. A group of anarchist punks have hatched a plan to sabotage the opening of a multi-national fast-food restaurant by blowing it sky-high come opening day. Chopstick has been given the unenviable task of setting the bomb in the restaurant the night before the opening, but when he is separated from his accomplice, Tracy, the night takes the first of many unexpected turns. ” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Overdrive cover Blood and Guts in High School, Kathy Acker (ebook)
“Janey undergoes, as if in a fairytale, a nightmare journey of exploitation – first incest, then abortions, a job selling cookies to the chi-chi bourgois of Brooklyn, a one-sided love affair with the leader of punk gang THE SCORPIONS, and finally is sold into the white slave trade in the middle east. Along the way she grapples with the cultural message of The Scarlet Letter, falls in love with Jean Genet, and angrily ridicules Erica Jong . Blood and Guts in High School has lost none of its power to shock.”(Overdrive description)

Black hole / Burns, Charles
“A strange plague has descended upon Seattles teenagers.The disease is manifested in any number of ways–from the hideously grotesque to the subtle. “Black Hole” explores a specific American cultural moment in flux and the kids who are caught in it. Suburban Seattle, the mid-1970s.  As hypnotically beautiful as it is horrifying, Black Hole transcends its genre by deftly exploring a specific American cultural moment in flux and the kids who are caught in it- back when it wasn’t exactly cool to be a hippie anymore, but Bowie was still just a little too weird. ” (Adapted from Catalogue)

A visit from the Goon Squad / Egan, Jennifer
“Bennie Salazar, an aging punk rocker and record executive, and the beautiful Sasha, the troubled young woman he employs, never discover each other’s pasts, but the reader does, in intimate detail, along with the secret lives of a host of other people whose paths intersect with theirs in the course of nearly fifty years. A Visit from the Goon Squad is about time, about survival, about our private terrors, and what happens when we fail to rebound.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The singer / Unsworth, Cathi
” The legend goes like this: Vincent Smith met bandmates Stevie Mullin and Lynton Powell at a Sex Pistols concert. Together they formed Blood Simple, and for a while they made a lot of noise, a bit of money and caused a sensation wherever they went. Then Vincent eloped with Sylvana, and it all went wrong. Six months later Sylvana committed suicide, the band fell apart, and Vincent disappeared. That was 1981 and twenty years on, journalist Eddie Bracknell hopes the story of Blood Simple will be the making of him but he can’t work out what happened to Vincent.” (Catalogue)

England’s dreaming : anarchy, Sex Pistols, punk rock, and beyond / Savage, Jon
“England’s Dreaming is the ultimate book on punk, its progenitors, the Sex Pistols, and the moment they defined for music fans in England and the United States. Savage brings to life the sensational story of the meteoric rise and rapid implosion of the Pistols through layers of rich detail, exclusive interviews, and rare photographs. This fully revised and updated edition of the book covers the legacy of punk twenty-five years later and provides an account of the Pistols’ 1996 reunion as well as a freshly updated discography and a completely new introduction.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Rotten : no Irish, no blacks, no dogs : the authorized autobiography, Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols / Lydon, John
“In Rotten: No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs, John Lydon (aka Rotten) looks back at himself, the Pistols and the ‘no future’ disaffection of their time. More than just a music book, Rotten is a history of punk: angry, witty, poignant and crackling with energy. Malcolm McClaren, Sid Vicious, Chrissie Hynde, Billy Idol, the Britain of the late ’70s, the Pistols’ creation and collapse – all are here, as one of punk’s foremost protagonists brings us perhaps the best book ever written about youth culture. ” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Talent filled graphic novels

The graphic novels collection has some great new and classic reprints appearing on the shelves. The complete collection of the cyberpunk manga classic Battle Angel Alita contrasts the gritty Japanese world of Tado Tsuge in Slum WolfYoung warriors also feature in Wood and Chater’s Sword daughter, where brutality brings a father and daughter to gritty resolve.  

More translated work features the talented French graphic novelist Edmond Baudoin’s childhood, in his visually eclectic memoir named for his brother, Piero. Also translated from French is Watersnakes by Tony Sandoval. This beautifully illustrated tale is a dark fantasy of female warriors magically residing in the teeth of a beautiful ghost who bewitches a young bored holiday maker, it gets weirder, with dream battles with skeletal wolves and an ancient octopus king. But beautiful! So beautiful!

A twist on Fables, the emotional journey in Wolf, and all the back story you could wish for in the first installation of Dirk Gently’s the Salmon of doubt round off this selection of our new adult comics.

Slum wolf / Tsuge, Tadao
“A gritty collection of graphic short stories by a Japanese manga master depicting life on the streets among punks, gangsters, and vagrants. Though virtually unknown in the United States, Tadao Tsuge is one of the original masters of alternative manga, and one of the world’s great artists of the down-and-out. Never before available in English, this new selection of his stories from the late sixties and the seventies depicts the lives of punks, vagrants, gangsters, and other lost souls with gritty lyricism. It is a raucous, exhilarating vision of street brawls and dive bars, shantytowns and brothels, and an unsettling portrait of postwar Japan” (Catalogue)

Sword Daughter. Volume 1, She brightly burns / Wood, Brian
“A father and daughter seek revenge against the ruthless Vikings that destroyed their lives, discovering that their fierce purpose can mend the bonds of family. One thousand years ago, a murderous clan known as the Forty Swords burned a village to the ground, leaving just two people alive: a shattered father and his teenage daughter. Setting off on a revenge quest that will span the width of Viking Age Europe, they find the key to repairing their damaged relationship lies in the swords they carry. Sword Daughter is a visually stunning, emotionally poignant story of parental guilt and acceptance of loss.” (Catalogue)

Piero / Baudoin, Edmond
“This English translation of Edmond Baudoin’s most intimate and inviting book, his graphic memoir of growing up with his beloved brother, Piero.  They confront Martians, battle octopuses, stage epic battles between medieval castles, and fly high over the earth. Inevitably, they begin to grow apart, and their shared artistic life is replaced by schoolwork, romance, dances, motorcycles, and the struggle to decide what sort of people they want to be.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Battle Angel Alita. Deluxe edition, volume 1 / Kishiro, Yukito
In a dump in the lawless settlement of Scrapyard, far beneath the mysterious space city of Zalem, disgraced cyber-doctor Daisuke Ido makes a strange find: the detached head of a cyborg woman who has lost all her memories. He names her Alita and equips her with a powerful new body, the Berserker. While Alita remembers no details of her former life, a moment of desperation reawakens in her nerves the legendary school of martial arts known as Panzer Kunst. (Adapted from Amazon.com)

Fables [13] : the great Fables crossover / Willingham, Bill
The Great Fables Crossover features appearances from Fables favorites such as Snow White, Bigby Wolf, Rose Red, Jack Frost, Beauty and The Beast. All nine issues of the long awaited crossover between Vertigo’s two popular series Fables and Jack of Fables are collected here.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Watersnakes / Sandoval, Tony
Three-time Eisner Award-nominated writer/artist Tony Sandoval presents a wondrous world of secret places and dreamlike magic hidden in the everyday corners of our sleeping imagination. Mila is a solitary teenager ready to put another boring summer vacation behind her until she meets Agnes, an adventurous girl who turns out to be a ghost. And not just a regular ghost, but one carrying the essence of an ancient fallen king and a mouth full of teeth that used to be his guardian warriors.” (Catalogue)

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency : the salmon of doubt. Volume 1 / David, Arvind Ethan
“Dirk Gently, created by Douglas Adams and currently the star of his own television series from BBC America returns to comics in The Salmon of Doubt, brought to you by executive producers of the show Arvind Ethan David and Max Landis with artist Ilias Kyriazis. Plagued by nightmares about a childhood he never had, Dirk returns to Cambridge University to seek the advice of his former tutor, the time-traveling Professor Reg Chronotis. There he discovers that an holistic detective can have more than one past, and his adventures have only just begun!” (Catalogue)

Wolf / Ball, Rachael
“Hugo, the youngest child of three, is walking with his father in the woods. There, he comes face-to-face with a wolf–and from that moment on, his life will never be the same again. Soon after, a tragic accident leaves Hugo desolate and disoriented. The family, now grieving and incomplete, moves to a new home. Among Hugo’s new neighbors is the Wolf Man, a dangerous recluse, according to the boy next door. Spellbound by the movie The Time Machine and desperate to return to the days before the accident, Hugo draws up plans to build a contraption that will turn back time. But only the Wolf Man has the parts Hugo needs to complete his machine, and that will mean entering his sinister neighbor’s house. Beautifully illustrated in pencil, Wolf is a captivating and poignant graphic novel about confronting childhood grief and overcoming the loss of a loved one.” (Catalogue)