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Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the Twentieth Century, Twentieth Anniversary Edition

Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the Twentieth Century, 
Twentieth Anniversary Edition
Greil Marcus; Belknap Press/Harvard University Press; 
paperback ;496 pages; Nov. 2009

“The music came forth as a no that became a yes, then a no again, then again a yes:” and then the drums kicked in and “nothing is true except our conviction that the world we are asked to accept is false. If nothing is true, everything is possible.” (9)

lipstick tracesWelcome to Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the Twentieth Century, Greil Marcus’s collage-o-phonic book that rings with voices in a thousand registers.

“As I tried to follow this story [the one he perceives running through chapters filled with medieval heretics, Dadaists, Situationists, and the Sex Pistols: “I am an anti-christ,” sang Johnny Rotten]–the characters changing into each other’s clothes until I gave up trying to make them hold still–what appealed to me were its gaps. and those moments when the story that has lost its voice somehow recovers it, and what happens then…. [quoting an ad for Potlatch he found in a “slick-paper, Belgian neo-surrealist review” dated 1954:] ‘Everywhere, youth (as it calls itself) discovers a few blunted knives, a few defused bombs, under thirty years of dust and debris; shaking in its shoes, youth hurls them upon the consenting rabble, which salutes it with its oily laugh.’” (20)

Situationist gnome, 1963: “The moment of real poetry brings all the unsettled debts of history back into play.” (21) That’s getting personal: I’ve resisted reading this book for twenty years. Now that I have, and since you’ve read this far, I recommend you do, too. So much for the niceties of the book review. What follows is engagement with Lipstick Traces. Continue reading