Synopses & Reviews
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.
"What do comedy and anarchy have in common? That's the question behind this wildly inventive debut novel that recasts the famous anarchists as a pie-throwing slapstick duo. The reader first meets Nic Sacco ('Fatty') and Bart Vanzetti ('Skinny') as comic actors la Laurel and Hardy in Sacco and Vanzetti Dessert the Cause, a film that mixes classic gags with a bitter rivalry. The duo barrel their way from vaudeville to film, finally striking it big with a series of 'knife-grinder' comedies that are as violent as they are funny. Like a good silent comedy, the novel has its share of feints Binelli cites fictional interviews and scholarly works about the pair's place in film history. But for all the off-kilter humor, there's an undercurrent of social consciousness that calls attention to the xenophobia of the early 20th century (one of the pair's movies is called A Couple of Wops in a Jam), condemning the role ethnic prejudice played in the actual Sacco and Vanzetti's conviction and execution. It's a hefty book, more intellectually satisfying than emotionally so, and it takes a long time for Binelli to bring together his counter-tale with its real-life antecedents. Still, this is an impressive first outing; ambitious in scope and brimming with sharp-edged black humor. (July)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Mark Binelli was so rude, I almost got up and left. He made me come across in such a horrible light. You suck, reporter! And I'm not afraid to say that, because he was really wrong. He hurt my feelings. And I wouldn't even bring it up because I'm giving him my energy and he doesn't deserve my energy." Britney Spears
"Binelli balances his protagonists with aplomb, nimbly playing them off each other....[W]e catch small glimpses of the real Sacco and Vanzetti in the book's funhouse mix of made-up fictional newsreels, movie magazine interviews and historical interludes." Los Angeles Times
"The novel itself may seem initially anarchic, but Binelli's work is as intricately structured as his characters' knife acts and pie fights." Library Journal
About the Author
A first-generation American, Mark Binelli grew up just outside of Detroit, where he worked in his father's knife-sharpening shop. In an interview, which is available online and will appear in Context
magazine, Binelli said, "The knife grinding stuff in the book all comes from my family. Pinzolo, the little town in Italy where my father grew up, for some reason has produced an inordinate number of knife grinders." He graduated from the University of Michigan and received an MFA from Columbia University. He is a contributing editor at Rolling Stone
. Sacco and Vanzetti Must Die!
is his first novel.