Monday, April 28, 2008

Book Review: Sway by Zachary Lazar

Sway by Zachary Lazar is the complete opposite of what the 60’s stood for. Lazar shows an extreme view of this era; how there is a darker side to peace, love and drugs. Beneath the rock and roll and psychedelics Sway shows the malevolence and neurosis between 1967 and 1969. Lazar weaves a tale grounded with facts of how the lives of Brian Jones, The Rolling Stones, Charles Manson, and Kenneth Anger intertwined.

Every character is under the “sway” of something. Thrown into fame, the star crossed musicians of the Rolling Stones sway under a balancing act of music and drugs. While Brian Jones is under the sway of anger, abuse and drugs leaving him less focused on his music and detached from the band. Kenneth Anger is under the sway of darkness, the occult, worship of men and creating movies. And then there is Bobby Beausoleil who is under the sway of the ideologies and delusions of Charles Manson. As the paths of the characters cross this sway leads to anarchy within a generation.

The novel doesn’t fully come to life as Lazar cannot fully develop the characters in the hundred or so pages. The depths and layers of each individual which are not touched upon in Sway are truly necessary to show the impact each had on the epoch. Upon reflection, I found it hard to decipher between reality and fiction. I felt like a groupie in the band, privileged to peek into the intimate moments, jam sessions and drug binges, or a hippie living in Haight-Ashbury under the trance of Anger and Manson.

However, Lazar does a wonderful job of intertwining devils with angels. Each character is depicted from a taboo/occult angle. Every character is battling some demon which is reflected in their work and actions. Yet none of the characters are portrayed as demons, not even Mason or Beausoleil. However, in the end it is obvious that they all have sympathy for the devil

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