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Sacco and Vanzetti Must Die! (American Literature Series) [Hardcover]

Mark Binelli
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
Price: £11.51 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

1 July 2006 American Literature Series
The Nic Sacco and Bart Vanzetti of Sacco and Vanzetti Must Die! are not exactly the infamous anarchists controversially sentenced to death by the United States government. Instead, in this hilarious first novel, they are silent film stars, slapstick comedians -- and this is the story of their rise to fame, from a seedy New York vaudeville club (where they introduce their famous knife-throwing gag) to huge movies and USO tours (where they open, with disastrous results, for Bob Hope). We see them deliberating about who -- one will be fat, the other skinny; one will be contemplative, the other impulsive -- they should be. But slowly -- as slapstick becomes a stand-in for anarchic freedom, as the characters grow out of their on-screen roles, and as their careers decline amidst controversy -- the fictional Sacco and Vanzetti begin to merge with their namesakes.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 353 pages
  • Publisher: Dalkey Archive Press; 1st Paperback Edition edition (1 July 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1564784452
  • ISBN-13: 978-1564784452
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 13.3 x 21 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,438,260 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


one story on paper, one floating somewhere in the ether of History, both running parallel to each other and both telling us a little something about how stories (both fictional and historical) are made at all.' -Beau Golwitzer, Bookslut

About the Author

Mark Binelli is the author of the novel Sacco and Vanzetti Must Die! and a contributing editor at Rolling Stone and Men's Journal. Born and raised in the Detroit area, he now lives in New York City.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars What have I just read? 5 Aug 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I genuinely have no idea how to describe this book (the blurb above warns that it "defies description", so why I'm even bothering I'm not sure.)

For those who don't know, in reality Sacco & Vanzetti were Italian immigrants to America in the 1920s. They were convicted of murder, and during their trial it transpired that they were anarchists. They were sentenced to death and executed, to outcry around the world that stemmed largely from the (probably accurate) belief that their execution was due to their political views rather than their actual guilt.

In the alternative reality of the novel, Sacco & Vanzetti are not anarchist activists but silent film stars, in the line of Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd, Laurel & Hardy and so on. The novel charts their lives (in a non-chronological order) and "relives" some of the situations that they find themselves in. Obviously all these situations are fictional but they are woven very, very cleverly into genuine scenarios and often have cameos from real individuals (Bob Hope being the one that most people would have heard of.) The chapter that deals with their later years is written so well as to be genuinely touching; it would be interesting to change the names and offer it to someone as an account of the last days of Laurel & Hardy, and see if they twig it's untrue - I think that they might not.

Having said that, the novel's structure is confusing (possibly a nod to the anarchist side of things?), bumbling from incident to incident and being distinctly different from, well, everything. It's hard to say if this is a plus or a minus. Given I'd read this book again, I'll count it as a plus. Any reader, however, is unlikely to emerge from it with any sense of...anything. It's really, really, really odd. But it's well written.
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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A work of considerable talent and originality 9 Aug 2006
By Midwest Book Review - Published on Amazon.com
The Nic Sacco and Bart Vanzetti in Mark Binelli's novel "Sacco And Vanzetti Must Die!" are not the infamous anarchists executed for treason by the United States government, but film stars and slapstick comedians who rose to fame through a seedy New York vaudeville club, then on to Hollywood films and USO tours (where they opened with disastrous results for Bob Hope). Eventually their careers decline , slapstick becomes a kind of stand-in for anarchic freedom, the two performers begin to merge with their more infamous namesakes. An alternate history of the 20th Century, "Sacco And Vanzetti Must Die! " is a work of considerable talent and originality, documenting author Mark Binelli as a writer who has mastered wit and storytelling to produce a highly recommended, minor masterpiece of literate, thoughtful, thought-provoking, and thoroughly entertaining fiction.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A book that is highly offensive to Italian/Italian-American people written by an Italian-American. 23 Aug 2014
By J. - Published on Amazon.com
I read this book since I enjoy reading anything about the Sacco and Vanzetti trial. I understand the book is meant to be a parody but the book was very poorly written, had very bad Italian/Italian-American stereotypes in it, and for a book that's supposed to be about humor it was not funny. Mark Binelli does Italians and Italian-Americans a disservice by writing BS like this. You can tell he is not that good of a writer if you read this book. He should stick to writing for magazines that years ago were good but are now bottom of the barrel like Rolling Stone.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Fun! 27 July 2006
By Derrik Albertelli - Published on Amazon.com
This book is a triumph on a number of levels.

He started to lose me toward the end, but he deals with the subject at hand with such depth that I couldn't put it down.

What do comedy and anarchy have in common? "The ability to enter a crowded pie-shop and see nothing but possibility".

Bravo Signor Binelli!
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Baffling, at first 13 Oct 2006
By Bartolo - Published on Amazon.com
Two or three chapters into this novel an unaccustomed question occurred: why, exactly, had the author written it? This was a question usually put to rest, when the answer wasn't self-evident, after a few pages of a book. But in this case, I remained puzzled why Binelli had conflated anarchists and vaudevillians. Why give them movie careers? Why bother to give them so un-funny a premise as a knife-throwing act? Binelli's wit and cool precision weren't in keeping with inventions of extravagant whimsy or loopy arbitrariness; this wasn't Woody Allen. The high quality of writing kept me reading, however, and soon the raison d'etre emerged: "Sacco and Vanzetti Must Die!" is a postmodern fiction-writer's equivalent of Meditations on Being Italian-American. Hence the appearance of various stereotypes (e.g. the organ grinder, the Mafiosi) and a cast that includes Primo Carnera, Benito Mussolini and Italo Balbo, and references to other Italians and Italo-Americans from Enrico Caruso to Enrico Fermi, if memory serves. (Binelli's kin were knive-sharpeners, and no doubt other elements here are autobiographical) Once my initial perplexity was resolved, I was free to concentrate on the novel--thoroughly entertaining, imaginative, provocative (as when the real historical figures Sacco and Vanzetti are presented) and quite satisfying. I look forward to Binelli's next effort--which I somehow doubt will center on his ethnicity.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not Postmodern to Me 18 Dec 2008
By Randall L. Wilson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
"Sacco and Vanzetti must die" only obliquely invokes the famous martyred anarchist duo. It is more concerned with the ethnic urban American experience of the first half of the 20th century. If the characters in the book hadn't been named Sacco and Vanzetti, would it have stood on its own? Yes, the book is compelling enough even if it were about an ethnic comedy team and their successes and struggles. Adding Sacco and Vanzetti to the mix adds a tragic quality to the story, a sense of lives wasted but also a mythic sense. The figures in the book are famous but their fame clearly doesn't have the staying power of the real Sacco and Vanzetti.

This goes to the question of modernism which is about breaking barriers, reaching for the new to make a deep cultural point. Here the America of the 20th century, the melting pot, the struggles of labor, the power of the establishment and ongoing struggle we all face in reaching for justice, are wrapped up with the real Sacco and Vanzetti. By turning them into comic figures, all of that mythology is turned on its head and examined anew. The book would be post-modern if these figures morphed into other comedy teams like Martin and Lewis or other duos like Huntley and Brinkley. That would be pastiche, a sending up everything and would miss out on the resonance which this book clearly has.

My only complaint is that the fictional Sacco and Vanzetti didn't come alive for me as characters. They were devices, good ones, compelling but still not connecting.
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