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What We Do Is Secret [Paperback]

Kief Hillsbery , Thorn Kief Hillsbery
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

12 April 2005
“Why am I a punk? Because I wasn’t anything before, except different. And now it’s like I’m different, but with a vengeance.”

It’s been months since the suicide of Darby Crash, L.A. punk rock icon and lead singer of the Germs. He checked out on the same day John Lennon was shot: December 8, 1980. But for Rockets Redglare, it feels like yesterday. Darby was the hot-as-sun center of Rockets’s world. Part ringleader, part god, and all charismatic manipulator, Darby was as close to family as a hustler and street kid like Rockets might ever get.

Now, as Rockets amps up for another night looking for tricks and scrounging a meal, Sex Pistols and X lyrics on repeat in his head, he knows he’s come to a turning point–the scene is changing, and nothing’s as easy as it was when Darby brought him into the fold.

From the underground clubs to the back of the giant “H” in the Hollywood sign, Rockets and his crew of friends spend the night burning bridges, building new ones, tripping and talking and searching for answers. As the dark gives way to early morning, the punks and the cops engage in their ritual standoff–and Rockets faces the ultimate choice: Should he stay or should he go?

Product details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Villard Books (12 April 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812973097
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812973099
  • Product Dimensions: 21 x 13 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 805,572 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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First Sentence
This is supposed to be about Darby Crash, but I don't think it's going to be. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
28 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Speechless....but I'll do my best 1 April 2006
By Son of Nietzsche VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
Kief Hillsbery is a god. Ok, so clearly I'm star-struck. But, if you've read his first book, 'War Boy', then you are already aware of his genius and will not be surprised that this latest book has been nominated for a Lambda Literary Award (results due out 13 May).
Like all significant works of fiction, 'What we do is secret' is not concerned with a 'plot' per se - instead, the stimulation comes from a symbiosis between the individual characters and the breathtakingly original prose. Rocket is a young teenage punk with a compelling mix of naivety and world-weariness. In a sense, he's seen it all...at least regarding the darker side of human nature - abandoned by drug addict parents, homeless, he turns tricks in Hollywood to make cash. Haunted by the death of his mentor, Darby Crash, the punk god who committed suicide a year previously, Rocket is unsure where he stands in relation to the world. Long since integrated into a life of punk culture and hustling, in 'What we do is secret' he tests his boundaries as regards sex, relationships, drugs, the ability to trust, and the deeper conundrum of whether to live or die.
It is impossible to categorise this work, since its originality demands that readers must experience it for themselves. Indeed, this is not a book that can be passively read, but is rather a work of art which with which the reader must actively engage. The prose is immersed in a scintillating rhythm. Reading this work is almost like being on an acid trip - where your brain is so liberated that individual words can spark off connotations and associations which you just 'get' without them having to be vocalised.
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Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars  10 reviews
21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Speechless...but I'll do my best. 14 April 2006
By Son of Nietzsche - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Kief Hillsbery is a god. Ok, so clearly I'm star-struck. But, if you've read his first book, `War Boy', then you are already aware of his genius and will not be surprised that this latest book has been nominated for a Lambda Literary Award (results due out 13 May).

Like all significant works of fiction, `What we do is secret' is not concerned with a `plot' per se - instead, the stimulation comes from a symbiosis between the individual characters and the breathtakingly original prose. Rocket is a young teenage punk with a compelling mix of naivety and world-weariness. In a sense, he's seen it all...at least regarding the darker side of human nature - abandoned by drug addict parents, homeless, he turns tricks in Hollywood to make cash. Haunted by the death of his mentor, Darby Crash, the punk god who committed suicide a year previously, Rocket is unsure where he stands in relation to the world. Long since integrated into a life of punk culture and hustling, in `What we do is secret' he tests his boundaries as regards sex, relationships, drugs, the ability to trust, and the deeper conundrum of whether to live or die.

It is impossible to categorise this work, since its originality demands that readers must experience it for themselves. Indeed, this is not a book that can be passively read, but is rather a work of art which with which the reader must actively engage. The prose is immersed in a scintillating rhythm. Reading this work is almost like being on an acid trip - where your brain is so liberated that individual words can spark off connotations and associations which you just `get' without them having to be vocalised. By way of (admittedly a fairly extreme) example:

"Where priest is priest and West is West and never the Twain shall trick or treat, not whore's truly, Brooklyn-born with father dead, brother a father with God in his head, he flies me out and flows me in, but reading for pleasure's a (chortle) sin."

Reading `What we do is secret' in some ways resembles living life: it can be exhilarating, frustrating, passionate, confusing, surprising, disturbing, erotic, dark, intense and incredibly poignant. You will be ruminating about it for a long time afterwards. The only downside to experiencing a Kief Hillsbery book is the realisation, once you've finished, that you have to wait (and as Rocket would say, "waiting is basically wanting") for the publication of another masterpiece from this author.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow... just... wow. 13 Jan 2006
By Natacon - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I recently picked this book up while just browsing through a store. At first, I was kind of unsure about the book. The wording is certainly different from what you'd expect, but after the first 50 pages, the book gets going. I recommend it for anyone who has just a little bit of patience. Once it starts, you'll quickly fall for Rockets' way of wording the book.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Art-Full 25 Jan 2006
By Benoit Lamy - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I was drawn to this book by the cover photograph that you will also see in the Beautiful Losers exhibition and book. And like the artists and photographers of Beautiful Losers, Thorn Hillsbery is the real thing in this time of fakes like J.T. Leroy. The adventures of Rockets on one night in the Los Angeles punk world of bands like the Germs and X and TSOL are told in the voice of a street kid who knows the streets and the street life but is brave enough and smart enough to choose creation over destruction. This, I think, must be the author's story, and many real-life people are included. It is written in a way that grabs you and shakes you and never completely lets you go. Just like the best punk rock and the best street art. Don't miss this.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sexy and intimate, funny and wise. 2 May 2005
By Guy Honion - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
A fresh work that's sexy and intimate, funny and wise. Its vocabulary is one unusual for this reader, but its idiom is a cousin to Salinger and the movie American Grafitti. Super-vivid in language and circumstance, the central character's journey sheds light on a "darker" side of our culture while breezily including the reader, trusting us, and investing in us a hipness and understanding that makes the piece all that more personal and satisfying. Get this book, and "let Rockets drive."
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant! 8 Feb 2006
By Nathan Cameron - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This is such a dazzling literary performance it ought to come with shades. Quite a recommendation when you consider it's all set on one night after the sun goes down. Thorn Kief Hillsbery is a writer in the tradition of Rimbaud, Joyce, and Jean Genet, with a dash of Patti Smith thrown in for good measure. Don't suppose you need to know or care about punk rock or punk rockers to appreciate this book. Rich in language and original in every detail, it takes you places you'll never forget, faster than you can say "Rockets."
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