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This Is Burning Man: The Rise of a New American Undergroundby Brian Doherty
Synopses & Reviews
A provocative first look inside the coolest event in America, the electric celebration of freedom and expression called Burning Man.
It's been compared to Brigadoon and Woodstock, called Xanadu and Utopia. But none of these terms captures the essence of the ecstatically wild, visionary desert gathering known as Burning Man. Every year, an elaborate, fantastical city rises out of the vast, forbidding Nevada landscape known as the Black Rock, only to vanish again one week later. The rules are few: participation and self-reliance are mandatory, money and spectators are not allowed. It is, without question, the most glamorous, anarchic city on Earth, dedicated purely to creativity and play, where on any given stroll you might wander past giant metal flame-spewing lotus flowers, commune at a three-story temple made from discarded dinosaur puzzle pieces, or hop on a life-size, glowing white whale as it sails over the sands backlit by an endless starry sky.
But Burning Man is more than just fun. It's an environment that exists in complete opposition to normal society where the usual rules and standards are ignored or inverted in the pursuit of fresh experiences and new identities. It's a place where accumulated cultural debris is swept aside in order to reestablish and reinvent what's important and what's meaningful in one intensely accelerated, vividly colorful week. Burning Man is the most profound and subversive idea to surface in decades — and has become the underground mecca for Americans who are searching for community and meaning.
This Is Burning Man tells the story of how the simple burning of a wooden man came to attract more than thirty thousand anarchists, Internet millionaires, ravers, academics, hippies, gearheads, punks, and suburban parents who travel each year to create an entirely alternate dimension, one whose vivid qualities are rapidly exploding onto the national consciousness. Brian Doherty captures the extraordinary spirit of the festival — its whimsy, its danger, its strangeness, and its absurdity — as well as the outrageous genius and folly of its artists and players. It's a portrait of a place whose hilarity and importance go hand in hand. Whether you are a seasoned Burning Man veteran or couldn't imagine coping with the festival's often brutal desert setting and mad behavior, this book is an invitation to explore the radical creativity and exhilaration of being a Black Rock citizen. Welcome to the incendiary vision that is Burning Man. Welcome home.
"It's tough to categorize Burning Man. Is it an excuse for thousands of anarchic, sexually uninhibited people to do drugs and destroy things? A massive, do-it-yourself arts festival for the punk avant-garde? Or is it the 'spontaneous flowering' of a new, subversive culture? Reason magazine editor Doherty explores these definitions and others in this gushing yet well-researched mix of journalism and memoir. Burning Man began in the mid-1980s, when some friends burned a wooden effigy on a California beach. The event soon relocated to the Nevada desert, where, apparently, the civilized world's rules no longer applied. People could play golf with burning toilet paper rolls or whip each other at the Temple of Atonement. One year, someone piled 10 tons of half-burned pianos on top of each other, creating a huge 'metapercussion instrument.' Another year, a man calling himself 'Dr. Megavolt' donned a metal suit and danced with electricity generated by a towering Tesla coil. By 2003, more than 30,000 pilgrims were participating, and Burning Man had become a $6-million 'culture business' that many saw as a sellout of its humble origins. Doherty is an enthusiastic devotee, and he adds his own memories to this account. This insider's look at a cornerstone of American subculture is informative, though nearly as chaotic as Burning Man itself. Photos. Agent, William Clark. (Aug. 6)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"This magical approach, while it makes the book questionable as verifiable social reportage, serves the BM ethos well. A lovingly, if not crisply, written tribute." Booklist
"Burning Man is a wondrous topic, and Brian Doherty handles it well." Walter Isaacson, author of Benjamin Franklin
"I loved this book!" Margaret Cho
"This book will teach you many weird things that you ought to be eager to know." Bruce Sterling, author of The Zenith Angle
"This is the rapturous story of the world's great messengers: its artists." Perry Farrell
The first-ever look inside the coolest event in America — the annual hi-tech Woodstock known as Burning Man.
Doherty provides detailed information on the outrageous festival — its inception, history, growth, and players — for the hundreds of thousands who have attended, as well as those who only wish they had.
About the Author
Brian Doherty is a senior editor at Reason magazine, a monthly focusing on politics and culture. He has written for dozens of publications, ranging from the Washington Post to USA Today to Salon.com, and his work has been anthologized in many books. He lives in Los Angeles and has attended Burning Man for the past nine years.
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