Featured Book Reviews Razorcake 112—Frame of Mind, Forty-Five Thought Crimes, House of the Black Spot, Teen Movie Hell

Illustration by Abdul Vas

Frame of Mind: Punk Photos and Essays from Washington DC, and Beyond, 1997-2017

By Antonia Tricarico, 176 pgs.

Antonia Tricarico’s Frame of Mind is a picture book that spans from 1997 to 2017 and while the work is primarily of D.C. bands, it covers other acts Tricarico captured throughout the U.S. and Europe. The book also includes essays by different women in music, including Alice Bag, Allison Wolfe, Joan Jett, and more.

It was enlightening to read how each person got into punk and found their place as musicians. In that sense, it was also empowering and I hope many young women who are contemplating playing an instrument will read these essays to show it is possible for them to also become musicians.

There were three things I especially liked about this book. One was the range of bands and artists. There are acts such as Fugazi captured on one page followed by bands I hadn’t heard of like Sneaks. Second, Tricarico takes some remarkable action photos. There are moments where she captures Scream literally screaming, Ian Svenonius dancing on stage, or L7 playing what I can imagine is a powerful riff. The final thing Tricarico does in Frame of Mind is give us insight into casual and intimate moments in the D.C. scene. There are pictures of bands and their family and friends together. I especially liked Scott Weinrich of St. Vitus with his baby, Flea talking with Amy Farina of the Evens, and Fugazi goofing around on a playground in Italy.

I couldn’t help but notice there were a number of pictures of Joe Lally of Fugazi. When I looked into that I found out that Tricarico and Lally are married. I can’t help but think having that relationship enabled Tricarico to get more consistent and intimate access of Fugazi, allowing her to have photos of the band that are better than most of those in Glen E. Friedman’s Keep Your Eyes Open.

I must admit I wasn’t expecting much from this book because I had no idea who Tricarico is, but her ability to take a wide range of musicians in various experiences and both show their energy and their humanity really makes these pages shine. The additional focus on women musicians both in photos and essays makes this one a keeper. –Kurt Morris (Akashic Books, 232 Third St., Suite A115, Brooklyn, NY 11215)

Frame of Mind: Punk Photos and Essays from Washington DC, and Beyond, 1997-2017
By Antonia Tricarico, 176 pgs.

The stars aligned the last time I was in Washington D.C. Sure, the bouncers at the 9:30 Club wouldn’t let me in to buy a shirt because I was ten minutes early. But! Trophy Wife played St. Stephen’s Church while I was there. I couldn’t believe my good fortune: They’re this guitar/drums duo that consistently dazzle me with their busy, hard-hitting paradox of minimalism. I have all their albums, and got a chance to see them in Washington D.C. The entire time I was at the show I was grinning like a complete idiot, tripping out on the whole thing.

This intro, of course, is designed to demonstrate that a) I am a huge dork when it comes to the D.C. scene, and b) that a photo book about said scene is very firmly in my wheelhouse. Antonia Tricarico is a talented photographer and trains her keen eye on bands of and in the scene, both playing and candidly hanging out at birthday parties, between shows, and at pajama parties (seriously). In addition to all the photos, Tricarico includes essays by prominently featured women musicians such as Amy Farina, Alice Bag, Allison Wolfe, and Katy Otto (of the aforementioned Trophy Wife). These essayists discuss their entries into the scene, and the relevance of music in their lives. Despite my aforementioned nerdery, I don’t think I’ve seen a book which so effectively combines essays and photos to provide inspiration. Clear some space on your shelf: this one’s crucial. –Michael T. Fournier (Akashic, akashicbooks.com)


1919
By Eve L. Ewing, 88 pgs.

The Great Migration, the exodus of millions of black Americans from the South to the North, began in 1916 and lasted for a few decades. The migrants were unwelcome, and the drowning of a young black man in Chicago’s Lake Michigan on July 27, 1919—white people on the shore may have knocked him unconscious by throwing rocks, or he may have drowned trying to avoid those people—was the catalyst for a race riot.

Poet and sociologist Eve L. Ewing chanced upon a 1922 report titled The Negro in Chicago: A Study on Race Relations and a Race Riot, inspiring a series of poems on the migration and riot, plus a few about Chicago in more recent decades.

The poems don’t offer historical instruction (so keep reading). Instead it’s an authoritative and entertaining panoply of voices and styles, including biblical verse, jump-rope chant, and government document. (And I will resist qualifying “entertaining.”)

Ewing quotes the report as saying that Chicagoans saw The Great Migration as “the worst calamity that had struck the city since the Great Fire.” One of Ewing’s poems is titled “True Stories About the Great Fire”:

Everything they tell you is wrong.
The Great Fire came here in a pair of worn loafers.
eating its last sandwich wrapped in paper
and the Great Fire had a smell of grease and flowers.

William Faulkner, I think, said something to the effect that people write novels because they lack the skill to tell their story within the concision of a poem. I’ve never seen this maxim demonstrated more masterfully than in Ewing’s poem “keeping house,” in which a black maid tells us about her life with her white employer. I’d quote a verse/section, but that would be like quoting twelve percent of the year’s best novel about twentieth century American race relations. –Jim Woster (Haymarket Press, HaymarketBooks.org)


Forty-Five Thought Crimes: New Writing by Lynn Breedlove, 95 pgs.

I feel I’ve read these poems before. This isn’t a commentary on originality; this is what it should feel like to have your life represented on the page. There have been anthologies published on trans poetics—and debates, too— around what makes a “queer” art, a “trans” art; how can it ever be universal? The answer, of course, is that it never can be and never will be. But as diverse experiences—the experiences, say, of transmasculine queers or spiritual queers or punk queers—become better represented (and thank whatever powers that may be that trans representation has come far enough queer punks can be published, too), a politics starts to develop. Sets of, not universalities, but commonalities; things often shared.

In the same light as Cristy C. Road’s Next World Tarot, or Alex Wrekk’s current work—or the resurgence as a whole, of holistic, even secular spiritualities within the queer and punk communities—Breedlove’s is a spiritual text, invoking the ancestor, Prince, the meditation of loving someone so truly. Breedlove does not shy from history, from his history in Tribe 8, as a “dyke,” something transmasculine folks often shy away from. I often joke “dykes taught me how to dress,” but aside from that, I rarely acknowledge that was once a community I considered myself a part of, however briefly, now that I’ve “transitioned,” whatever that means when you’re non-binary.

The work these poems do, the creation and recognition of these histories (and for Breedlove, this is not just his gender and sexuality, it is, too, about his mixed indigenous and German heritage), though confusing and uncomfortable, are necessary to build an understanding of queerness, of fluidity, of our own histories and the knowledge that they are never as simple as we are taught to believe. So though I’ve read these poems before, I was happy to read them again, and to feel bolstered by them in a way we all deserve to. –jimmy cooper (Manic D Press, manicdpress.com)


House of the Black Spot

By Ben Sears, 80 pgs.


It’s hard to describe the world of Ben Sears’ Double+ stories. First, I’ll attempt to describe Sears’ style: chunky cartoonish characters that remind you of the Aardman stop motion movies à la Wallace and Gromit. I hear British accents in my head while I’m reading the dialogue in his books. There is an extremely impressive amount of detail put into the architecture and backgrounds in Sears’s comics. The lines aren’t perfectly straight but they are definitely eye candy.

Now, the Double+ stories themselves. Our main protagonist is Plus Man, an adventurer/delivery boy who always dons a helmet and goggles. He’s cool, helpful, and doesn’t put up with bullhonkey. Plus Man is accompanied by Hank, who is a floating round metal robot with arms and nothing else. The peculiar part about the robots in this universe is they are never treated as such. It’s very funny when there are references to them eating, having children, running businesses, and wearing clothes. In this wild brick and mortar, almost steampunk-ish world, Plus Man and Hank find themselves in some sort of chase or in the middle of a mystery.

In House of the Black Spot, the duo is sent out to the country home of Hank’s recently deceased uncle, Bill, for a reading of the will. And it becomes a Scooby Doo mystery from there. You got the greedy real estate moguls, the snobby son of Uncle Bill, the aloof housekeepers, and of course, the G-G-G-GHOST! The tenants are haunted by the ghost of the industrialist Frederick Wentworth. Despite it being a classic murder mystery including secret passages and red herrings, it spins a couple of Scooby Doo tropes on their head.

There are some good punk rock sensibilities in this book. Plus Man is almost like a kid in a touring band. He washes the dishes, offers to make food, is generous to his hosts, and has some pretty hilarious digs on the rich butts in the story. All without a single swear word.

This is the first Ben Sears book I have seen in full color. And he truly kills it. This is one of the most vibrant and colorful comics I have seen in a very long time. While staring and studying every detail going on in every panel, you will think you’re crying. But that’s just your eyeballs drooling. It’s a quick read that all ages will definitely enjoy. I can imagine many school kids doodling Plus Man on their book covers. –Rick V. (Koyama Press, koyamapress.com)


Lorna
By Benji Nate, 54 pgs.


Lorna is an introverted young woman who likes cats, reading, sharp objects, and seems to always be near corpses. The first half of this issue is a collection of one- to two-page comic strips about the shenanigans Lorna gets into. Like hanging out in trashcans, dismembering reptiles, picking clothing off aforementioned corpses, hanging out with her friend Norma, and filling out job resumes. The second half is the story of “Lorna’s First Date.” Lorna reflects on how she built up the courage to threaten a boy into going on a picnic with her. And dark hilarity ensues.

This is a weird, uncomfortable, and great comic. One would expect no less from Benji Nate (whose previous book Catboy took the youth by storm). The artwork is great and done with colored markers. It’s super solid and worth picking up. On the first page, Nate says they will be releasing more Lorna comics the future. You should be very excited about that. –Rick V (Silver Sprocket, silversprocket.com)


Mean Girl: Ayn Rand and the Culture of Greed
By Lisa Duggan, 136 pgs.

I didn’t read Ayn Rand’s massive novels The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged prior to realizing I’m going to die someday, and so missed my window. I’ve read The Virtue of Selfishness, a book of essays by her and a boyfriend about her philosophy of Objectivism—they really phone in the “virtue” part—or maybe I’m just a virtue-signaler. (I’m waiting for the vocabulary assassins of the Twitter Right to target the phrase “good deeds.”) I’d thought my knowledge of Rand was adequate—or at least, I didn’t think I’d put any work into expanding it.

Then came NYU Professor Lisa Duggan’s Mean Girl: Ayn Rand and the Culture of Greed. It’s part of the University of California Press’s American Studies Now series, which Duggan describes as “short, timely, accessible books for activists as well as students.”

We learn about Rand’s childhood in pre- and post-revolutionary St. Petersburg—no one with her childhood was going to grow up to be too far left of center—and how with impressive effort for a young woman in Soviet Russia in 1926, she made it to America. Making a presumably accidental point in favor of Objectivism, Duggan writes Rand had a “rather uncanny ability to get what she wanted.”

We then read very welcome summaries of her novels and their ideas, with insight into events from her life that influenced the novels. I needed Mean Girl and didn’t know it.

The book is accessibly written, though it refers frequently to the ideology of “neoliberalism”—which Duggan’s glossary says is about redistributing resources upward—as though everyone is familiar with it, and I’d never come across the term before.

The Fountainhead is, as Duggan writes, “a fat novel, full of long didactic speeches.” But it’s sold more than six and a half million copies and paved a significant stretch of the road that got us to Trump’s America. How the hell did that happen? Duggan sheds a lot of light and only needed 136 pages to do it. –Jim Woster (University of California Press, UCPress.edu)


Teen Movie Hell
By Mike “McBeardo” McPadden, 351 pgs.

Remember being a teenager in the ’80s and not having any friends who could drive yet? What would you do on a Friday night? You would sneak over to whichever buddy had cable TV and find those pay channels. That’s where the goldmine of teen comedy flicks would pop up at midnight. So maybe it has been a few years since you watched Class. Or My Tutor? Even Porky’s? Well, now you have your complete guide all in one volume. McBeardo covers every movie-from A-Z. I do mean every movie. The ’70s and ’90s see their share, but it is the golden era of the ’80s that gets the spotlight. When McBeardo has to put the beer bong down for a minute, he has a team of guest contributors ready, willing, and able to step up to the plate. The enjoyment for me was remembering movies I hadn’t seen in decades. There were many times where I totally agreed with the review’s final ratings. Valley Girl? A classic, of course. Loverboy? Horrible. I will stray from the party line and say that although it got panned in this book, I will always have a soft spot in my heart for Nick Nolte in Teachers. Is this book politically correct? Absolutely not—but that is what makes nostalgia fun! I for one can’t wait to see King Frat for the first time. It sounds fantastic. –Sean Koepenick (Bazillion Points, bazillionpoints.com)

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There were three things I especially liked about this book. One was the range of bands and artists. There are acts such as Fugazi captured on one page followed by bands I hadn’t heard of like Sneaks. Second, Tricarico takes some remarkable action photos. There are moments where she captures Scream literally screaming, Ian Svenonius dancing on stage, or L7 playing what I can imagine is a powerful riff. The final thing Tricarico does in Frame of Mind is give us insight into casual and intimate moments in the D.C. scene. There are pictures of bands and their family and friends together. I especially liked Scott Weinrich of St. Vitus with his baby, Flea talking with Amy Farina of the Evens, and Fugazi goofing around on a playground in Italy.

I couldn’t help but notice there were a number of pictures of Joe Lally of Fugazi. When I looked into that I found out that Tricarico and Lally are married. I can’t help but think having that relationship enabled Tricarico to get more consistent and intimate access of Fugazi, allowing her to have photos of the band that are better than most of those in Glen E. Friedman’s Keep Your Eyes Open.

I must admit I wasn’t expecting much from this book because I had no idea who Tricarico is, but her ability to take a wide range of musicians in various experiences and both show their energy and their humanity really makes these pages shine. The additional focus on women musicians both in photos and essays makes this one a keeper. –Kurt Morris (Akashic Books, 232 Third St., Suite A115, Brooklyn, NY 11215)

Frame of Mind: Punk Photos and Essays from Washington DC, and Beyond, 1997-2017
By Antonia Tricarico, 176 pgs.

The stars aligned the last time I was in Washington D.C. Sure, the bouncers at the 9:30 Club wouldn’t let me in to buy a shirt because I was ten minutes early. But! Trophy Wife played St. Stephen’s Church while I was there. I couldn’t believe my good fortune: They’re this guitar/drums duo that consistently dazzle me with their busy, hard-hitting paradox of minimalism. I have all their albums, and got a chance to see them in Washington D.C. The entire time I was at the show I was grinning like a complete idiot, tripping out on the whole thing.

This intro, of course, is designed to demonstrate that a) I am a huge dork when it comes to the D.C. scene, and b) that a photo book about said scene is very firmly in my wheelhouse. Antonia Tricarico is a talented photographer and trains her keen eye on bands of and in the scene, both playing and candidly hanging out at birthday parties, between shows, and at pajama parties (seriously). In addition to all the photos, Tricarico includes essays by prominently featured women musicians such as Amy Farina, Alice Bag, Allison Wolfe, and Katy Otto (of the aforementioned Trophy Wife). These essayists discuss their entries into the scene, and the relevance of music in their lives. Despite my aforementioned nerdery, I don’t think I’ve seen a book which so effectively combines essays and photos to provide inspiration. Clear some space on your shelf: this one’s crucial. –Michael T. Fournier (Akashic, akashicbooks.com)


1919
By Eve L. Ewing, 88 pgs.

The Great Migration, the exodus of millions of black Americans from the South to the North, began in 1916 and lasted for a few decades. The migrants were unwelcome, and the drowning of a young black man in Chicago’s Lake Michigan on July 27, 1919—white people on the shore may have knocked him unconscious by throwing rocks, or he may have drowned trying to avoid those people—was the catalyst for a race riot.

Poet and sociologist Eve L. Ewing chanced upon a 1922 report titled The Negro in Chicago: A Study on Race Relations and a Race Riot, inspiring a series of poems on the migration and riot, plus a few about Chicago in more recent decades.

The poems don’t offer historical instruction (so keep reading). Instead it’s an authoritative and entertaining panoply of voices and styles, including biblical verse, jump-rope chant, and government document. (And I will resist qualifying “entertaining.”)

Ewing quotes the report as saying that Chicagoans saw The Great Migration as “the worst calamity that had struck the city since the Great Fire.” One of Ewing’s poems is titled “True Stories About the Great Fire”:

Everything they tell you is wrong.
The Great Fire came here in a pair of worn loafers.
eating its last sandwich wrapped in paper
and the Great Fire had a smell of grease and flowers.

William Faulkner, I think, said something to the effect that people write novels because they lack the skill to tell their story within the concision of a poem. I’ve never seen this maxim demonstrated more masterfully than in Ewing’s poem “keeping house,” in which a black maid tells us about her life with her white employer. I’d quote a verse/section, but that would be like quoting twelve percent of the year’s best novel about twentieth century American race relations. –Jim Woster (Haymarket Press, HaymarketBooks.org)


Forty-Five Thought Crimes: New Writing by Lynn Breedlove, 95 pgs.

I feel I’ve read these poems before. This isn’t a commentary on originality; this is what it should feel like to have your life represented on the page. There have been anthologies published on trans poetics—and debates, too— around what makes a “queer” art, a “trans” art; how can it ever be universal? The answer, of course, is that it never can be and never will be. But as diverse experiences—the experiences, say, of transmasculine queers or spiritual queers or punk queers—become better represented (and thank whatever powers that may be that trans representation has come far enough queer punks can be published, too), a politics starts to develop. Sets of, not universalities, but commonalities; things often shared.

In the same light as Cristy C. Road’s Next World Tarot, or Alex Wrekk’s current work—or the resurgence as a whole, of holistic, even secular spiritualities within the queer and punk communities—Breedlove’s is a spiritual text, invoking the ancestor, Prince, the meditation of loving someone so truly. Breedlove does not shy from history, from his history in Tribe 8, as a “dyke,” something transmasculine folks often shy away from. I often joke “dykes taught me how to dress,” but aside from that, I rarely acknowledge that was once a community I considered myself a part of, however briefly, now that I’ve “transitioned,” whatever that means when you’re non-binary.

The work these poems do, the creation and recognition of these histories (and for Breedlove, this is not just his gender and sexuality, it is, too, about his mixed indigenous and German heritage), though confusing and uncomfortable, are necessary to build an understanding of queerness, of fluidity, of our own histories and the knowledge that they are never as simple as we are taught to believe. So though I’ve read these poems before, I was happy to read them again, and to feel bolstered by them in a way we all deserve to. –jimmy cooper (Manic D Press, manicdpress.com)


House of the Black Spot

By Ben Sears, 80 pgs.


It’s hard to describe the world of Ben Sears’ Double+ stories. First, I’ll attempt to describe Sears’ style: chunky cartoonish characters that remind you of the Aardman stop motion movies à la Wallace and Gromit. I hear British accents in my head while I’m reading the dialogue in his books. There is an extremely impressive amount of detail put into the architecture and backgrounds in Sears’s comics. The lines aren’t perfectly straight but they are definitely eye candy.

Now, the Double+ stories themselves. Our main protagonist is Plus Man, an adventurer/delivery boy who always dons a helmet and goggles. He’s cool, helpful, and doesn’t put up with bullhonkey. Plus Man is accompanied by Hank, who is a floating round metal robot with arms and nothing else. The peculiar part about the robots in this universe is they are never treated as such. It’s very funny when there are references to them eating, having children, running businesses, and wearing clothes. In this wild brick and mortar, almost steampunk-ish world, Plus Man and Hank find themselves in some sort of chase or in the middle of a mystery.

In House of the Black Spot, the duo is sent out to the country home of Hank’s recently deceased uncle, Bill, for a reading of the will. And it becomes a Scooby Doo mystery from there. You got the greedy real estate moguls, the snobby son of Uncle Bill, the aloof housekeepers, and of course, the G-G-G-GHOST! The tenants are haunted by the ghost of the industrialist Frederick Wentworth. Despite it being a classic murder mystery including secret passages and red herrings, it spins a couple of Scooby Doo tropes on their head.

There are some good punk rock sensibilities in this book. Plus Man is almost like a kid in a touring band. He washes the dishes, offers to make food, is generous to his hosts, and has some pretty hilarious digs on the rich butts in the story. All without a single swear word.

This is the first Ben Sears book I have seen in full color. And he truly kills it. This is one of the most vibrant and colorful comics I have seen in a very long time. While staring and studying every detail going on in every panel, you will think you’re crying. But that’s just your eyeballs drooling. It’s a quick read that all ages will definitely enjoy. I can imagine many school kids doodling Plus Man on their book covers. –Rick V. (Koyama Press, koyamapress.com)


Lorna
By Benji Nate, 54 pgs.


Lorna is an introverted young woman who likes cats, reading, sharp objects, and seems to always be near corpses. The first half of this issue is a collection of one- to two-page comic strips about the shenanigans Lorna gets into. Like hanging out in trashcans, dismembering reptiles, picking clothing off aforementioned corpses, hanging out with her friend Norma, and filling out job resumes. The second half is the story of “Lorna’s First Date.” Lorna reflects on how she built up the courage to threaten a boy into going on a picnic with her. And dark hilarity ensues.

This is a weird, uncomfortable, and great comic. One would expect no less from Benji Nate (whose previous book Catboy took the youth by storm). The artwork is great and done with colored markers. It’s super solid and worth picking up. On the first page, Nate says they will be releasing more Lorna comics the future. You should be very excited about that. –Rick V (Silver Sprocket, silversprocket.com)


Mean Girl: Ayn Rand and the Culture of Greed
By Lisa Duggan, 136 pgs.

I didn’t read Ayn Rand’s massive novels The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged prior to realizing I’m going to die someday, and so missed my window. I’ve read The Virtue of Selfishness, a book of essays by her and a boyfriend about her philosophy of Objectivism—they really phone in the “virtue” part—or maybe I’m just a virtue-signaler. (I’m waiting for the vocabulary assassins of the Twitter Right to target the phrase “good deeds.”) I’d thought my knowledge of Rand was adequate—or at least, I didn’t think I’d put any work into expanding it.

Then came NYU Professor Lisa Duggan’s Mean Girl: Ayn Rand and the Culture of Greed. It’s part of the University of California Press’s American Studies Now series, which Duggan describes as “short, timely, accessible books for activists as well as students.”

We learn about Rand’s childhood in pre- and post-revolutionary St. Petersburg—no one with her childhood was going to grow up to be too far left of center—and how with impressive effort for a young woman in Soviet Russia in 1926, she made it to America. Making a presumably accidental point in favor of Objectivism, Duggan writes Rand had a “rather uncanny ability to get what she wanted.”

We then read very welcome summaries of her novels and their ideas, with insight into events from her life that influenced the novels. I needed Mean Girl and didn’t know it.

The book is accessibly written, though it refers frequently to the ideology of “neoliberalism”—which Duggan’s glossary says is about redistributing resources upward—as though everyone is familiar with it, and I’d never come across the term before.

The Fountainhead is, as Duggan writes, “a fat novel, full of long didactic speeches.” But it’s sold more than six and a half million copies and paved a significant stretch of the road that got us to Trump’s America. How the hell did that happen? Duggan sheds a lot of light and only needed 136 pages to do it. –Jim Woster (University of California Press, UCPress.edu)


Teen Movie Hell
By Mike “McBeardo” McPadden, 351 pgs.

Remember being a teenager in the ’80s and not having any friends who could drive yet? What would you do on a Friday night? You would sneak over to whichever buddy had cable TV and find those pay channels. That’s where the goldmine of teen comedy flicks would pop up at midnight. So maybe it has been a few years since you watched Class. Or My Tutor? Even Porky’s? Well, now you have your complete guide all in one volume. McBeardo covers every movie-from A-Z. I do mean every movie. The ’70s and ’90s see their share, but it is the golden era of the ’80s that gets the spotlight. When McBeardo has to put the beer bong down for a minute, he has a team of guest contributors ready, willing, and able to step up to the plate. The enjoyment for me was remembering movies I hadn’t seen in decades. There were many times where I totally agreed with the review’s final ratings. Valley Girl? A classic, of course. Loverboy? Horrible. I will stray from the party line and say that although it got panned in this book, I will always have a soft spot in my heart for Nick Nolte in Teachers. Is this book politically correct? Absolutely not—but that is what makes nostalgia fun! I for one can’t wait to see King Frat for the first time. It sounds fantastic. –Sean Koepenick (Bazillion Points, bazillionpoints.com)

These reviews and many, many more are printed in a zine that you can subscribe to at a reasonable price, delivered to your door. Click the link below to help Razorcake stay in afloat.