I remember first hearing about Sacco and Vanzetti Must Die almost a year ago when Dalkey published it. A publicist over there sent me a copy in hopes that I would read it and like it. Onto the pile it went, along with too many other alluring books sent by publishers that I just haven't gotten around to reading.
Well, now that I've read S&V, if it's any indication of the quality waiting for me in the books sitting in my stack, I need to make more time for them.
What to call this book? A poetic metaphor for how comic duos sublimate the urge toward anarchy? An alternate history of two little-known-yet-still-infamous immigrants? A story of making the American Dream?
Well, call it all that. What I think I appreciate most about this book is how Mark Binelli mixes these elements, and others, within not only this novel, but within chapters, scenes, and even paragraphs. The book to me feels very carefully considered, a work in which the author took time to carefully choose his images, to link his metaphors so that the whole thing pulls closer together the more your read.
On one level this is a very pleasurable experience, as it makes S&V a book that is thoroughly enjoyable to re-read as you hunt back through to solve it like a detective.
But in another way the book is pleasurable--simply experiencing it. I can't say I'm the world's biggest fan of slapstick, but in this book Binelli has made the sensibility of this brand of comedy something completely enjoyable. He's captured it on the page, uses it as the basis of this book's unique feel. What I'm saying is that S&V has a very distinct sense to it. It's often funny, but more often feels like a riff on the sensibility of a certain brand of film. I greatly enjoyed immersing myself in this realm every time I opened the book.
What does this have to do with two wrongly executed Italians? Well, very little, and also everything. Although Binelli appropriates Sacco's and Vanzetti's names, he takes very little else of their biographies. Yet, he has found a career into which to put his S&V that allows him to capture an understanding of the anarchism the real S&V represented. And, in the end, I think Binelli's two Italians have a lot to say about the real ones.
All in all, I think this was a great book, and I'm indebted to Jessica for making us all read it.