Subversive Book Club Review: Agent of Evolution

Full Title: Bill Hicks: Agent of Evolution
Author: Kevin Booth with Michael Bertin (Ghost Writer)
Year: 2005
Comments:

I pride myself on the many subversive books I read and let me say, I tend to find the best of these bunch to be those of the autobiography, biography, memoir, etc. variety. It’s really neat to see how someone became the subversive, influential character they are/were. This book in particular is special for two reasons: 1) The subject is my hero and main influence, stand up comedian/social critic, Bill Hicks. 2) This work is written by his best friend and collaborator, Kevin Booth (Sacred Cow Productions) and contains various passages by close friends and several other vital figures in Hicks’ life/career. So, with those credentials, this read is easily one of the most personal and intimate experiences one can find from a book. We see how Hicks was raised in a Southern Baptist Prison and how he escaped through his window, out into the Comedy World via the Comedy Workshop in Houston, Texas. As he hits the stage life, he transforms from excessive teetotaler to excessive drinker with cocaine and various other substances serving as side dishes. After years of constant partying, Bill realizes his life and career needs a 180 turn and he snaps into sobriety. Instantly (it seems), he takes his comedy to new levels, the humor itself is the same, but with a sober mind he can perform more and execute his revolutionary message stronger than ever. Sadly, he never hits it big in his homeland, though his career did grow and he became quite popular in the UK. Even more depressing, in 1993, Hicks was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and died shortly after. As readers we realize, yes it was a tragedy that he died soooo young, but what would have been more tragic was if he did nothing with his life and kept his thoughts to himself and went about his day. Instead, Hicks was outspoken and stopped at nothing to change as many minds as he could; forcing people to think for themselves, as stated in the Outlaw Comic documentary. Bill may not have waken everyone up, but for those who did hear his call, he changed everything. It wasn’t just “is what the govermnent doing bad?” It was, “the government is a bunch of lying, stealing, murderous cocksuckers- here’s why- now show me how I’m wrong.” To which a neanderthal redneck would respond, “You’re UNAMERICAN!” End of argument. Overall, I can’t say anything negative here, except maybe the fact that many of the guest writers, friends and such, drag on a little bit and repeat what others said, but other than that, this is a fantastic and informative read. We see an up close look at one of the greatest minds in all of art and entertainment through the eyes of his loved ones. What more can you ask for?

P.S. the tales of Acid/Mushrooms tripping are mind blowing and fascinating, to say the very least.

Grade: A, KLYAM RECOMMENDED

Subversive Book Club Review: Psych…

Author: Carl Jung (published as C.G. Young)
Full Title: Psychology and Religion
Year: 1938
Comments:

Well, here’s a rather unique addition for our little Subversive Book Joint. The broad topics of Psychology and Religion have barey (if at all) entered the sphere of Book Club reviews and what other better way to kick off this occasion than with Psych’s Spock, Carl Jung! Jung, unlike his mentor, Sigmund Freud, focused less on the role of sex in our psyche and more on shadows, archetypes, and all that jazz. As you can probably guess my knowledge of Psychology is very limited to a couple of general psych courses, so much of this work was a bit too “heady” for me, but I appreciated delving into deep thought with Jung’s musings. Specifically, I dig his theory that it is our thoughts that are actually the most dangerous elements in life and not things like torandos and nuclear bombs. Sit on that for a while…. Overall, I like the way Jung isn’t dogmatic with his approaches, like most others are.

I’m not going to grade this because I do not feel like I am in any position to judge it as a “good” or “bad” book, but I enjoyed doing a little exploring.

Chris

Subversive Book Club Review: We Are Everywhere

Author: Jerry Rubin
Full Title: We Are Everywhere
Year: 1971
Grade: A-
Why Subversive?/Comments:
The Yippie Master takes us on another visceral journey into the everyday life of a 1960s, Amerikan Revolutionary. Written, while serving a setence in Cook County Jail, WAE reveals the highs and lows of said lifestyle: Riots, conspiracy trials, police brutality, being spied/wiretapped, stoned, LSD, Molotov Cocktails. In fact, the book is dedicated to the Weather Undeground and Rubin discusses them quite a bit, amongst other Revolutionary heroes and heroines, including the Black Panthers, Dave Dellinger, the Women’s Liberation Movement, John Sinclair, Timothy Leary and more. Though this work of incendiary material is quite subversive and colorful (figuratively and literally; filled with pictures and most pages are green, purple, etc) it lacks the zaniness and “shit in the middle of a bank” attitude of it’s predescessor, Do iT!, to an extent. Sure, compared to most books, it’s far more out there, but placed side by side with other Yippie works, it’s far more serious and not as humorous or wacky. I speculate this is for two reasons. For one, Rubin, by his own words, matured… a little bit. He abandoned his machoism and homophobia. In Do iT!, he made cracks about gays and ignored women’s role in the movement/revolution. In WAE, this is not the case, hence there are no photos of naked Revolutionary hunnies, he even condemns the phrase, “getting a piece of ass.” Secondly, the times got worse, with more governmental repression, that called for more militance. People were going to jail for longer sentences (Bobby Seale, John Sinclair, etc) good folks were being assasinated (Fred Hampton), and many were forced underground or into exile (Timothy Leary, Eldridge Cleaver, The Weathermen, etc). The FBI was cracking down on dissidents, like no other time before, they even had many spies, whom posed as activists for years, thus causing distrust amongst eveyone. The government attempted to use psychological warfare to destroy the movement from within. They failed, but it still left many devastated and often fucked up their lives. Therefore, Rubin’s book is not as happy as one would expect. Though, don’t misconstrue me, it’s still quite amusing and inspirational, if incredily outdated (it’s actually outta print!) At one point, Jerry and folk singer, Phil Ochs visit Charlie Manson in prison and “rap”- Revolutionary chat- with him for hours. Go figure. All in all, this serves as a fantastic statement against corrupt and boring Amerika and instead for the creation of a better, more humane society.

Chris

Subversive Book Club Review: Hell’s Angels

Author: Hunter S. Thompson
Full Title: Hell’s Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs
Year: 1966
Grade: A/A-
Comments/ Why Subversive?: Thank God for Hunter S. Thompson. Being a major Thompson fan, I am of course massively biased in my opinion; in other words, whenever reading his works, I can never find anything bad to say about them, even if I know they exist, I feel like his writing is so superb and entertaining (the most entertaining perhaps) it eliminates any flaws. This was Thompson’s breakthrough hit and introduced the world to the off the walls, up and close, brazen and savagely honest, Gonzo “journalist.” Though, Gonzo guys and girls should know, that said style is not utilized in this work, but the sarcasm and brutality are all there. Clearly, Thompson is unique in that few other media players would sacrifice their souls by riding with the Hell’s Angels for over a year to attain a personal look at the Outlaw, Criminal Gang. And he does just that, we are taken on an unsettling trip into the seedy, scummy underbelly of the Angels’: Gang Rapes, Murder, Theft, Riots, and the whole nine. The violent gang in many ways are just as American as the Cunningham’s, just “more honest,” as Thompson would say. They are individualists (though Thompson disagrees with this), do as they feel and stand up for what they think is right; basically the flipside of the Lone Ranger, Old Western Cowboy type, who stands for justice. Without a doubt, the Angels are a fascinating crew, the Ugly, Low Life of America.

Chris