SWAY by Zachary Lazar


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The often self-destructive misadventures of “young people severed from all ties to the ordinary world” are chronicled in Lazar’s alluringly creepy second novel (Aaron, Approximately, 1998).

It tells three linked stories, each populated by iconic figures of the late 1960s. Beautiful-boy drifter and sometime rock musician Bobby Beausoleil wanders into the orbit of a charismatic “messiah” named Charlie, whose southern Californian “family” obediently isolate themselves in order to articulate his vision of uncompromising “love.” A few years earlier, several young males survive a frigid winter in an unheated London flat, devoting themselves to the creation of a driving musical style compounded of ingeniously mingled influences and raw technical virtuosity. As Mick, Brian, Keith et al. become the Rolling Stones and their “aloof antistyle” makes them famous, an introverted California boy, Kenneth Anglemyer, having survived the late Depression years and converted his fear of his physically abusive father into an artistic passion, becomes a furtive homosexual cruiser and the celebrated underground filmmaker Kenneth Anger, creator of such abrasive cinema as Scorpio Rising and Flaming Creatures. As pansexual Bobby glides in and out of Anger's life, the Stones grow ever more famous, abuse various substances and one another and attract the attention of the itinerant Anger—who sees in Mick Jagger’s polymorphous perversity the “Angel of Light” Lucifer, for which role Anger had groomed the unstable Bobby. The novel moves swiftly, and Lazar handles the numerous segues from one story to another with a veteran film editor's finesse. The novel drags, so to speak, when focused on the Stones’s sartorial campiness, the suicidal shenanigans of their least energetic member Brian Jones and the sniping brought on by sexual sharing of notorious rock molls Anita Pallenberg and Marianne Faithfull. But the ending has a powerful kick, and we're still hearing its echoes.

A skillful dramatization of the consequences of making and inhabiting your own world. The Stones ought to write a song about it.

Pub Date: Jan. 7th, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-316-11309-0
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Little, Brown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 2007


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