Thursday, February 16, 2006

A Review of the "The Sidewalk Smokers Club"

the scribe is going to review his own book and say something about media concentration at the same time:

“Stephen Siciliano’s Sidewalk Smokers are the perfect post-political pariahs. His mélange of semi-employed rakes and rakettes occupy the ranks of a maligned American subculture. Driven to the sidewalks by the most selective kind of lawmaking, they find their resistance to the increased regulation of their lives symptomatic of a deeper, shared sense of threatened homogenization.

What’s different about The Sidewalk Smokers Club’s battle for individual sanctity is how it is carried on within that most neglected of institutions in our culture – the collective. Lethargic sensualists, craven in their drive for publicity, the group’s saving grace is that they are uncommonly kind to one another. Do we really know people like this? Probably not, which may, in the end, be what Mr. Siciliano is after.

At best unconsecrated makers of useless things, at worst a cabal of rootless cosmopolitans on the make for the big break, The Smokers are united behind one of their own, taking on a media giant over the publishing of some dated, nude photos. Understanding how outlandish behavior garners notoriety they climb into the public eye, their tendencies open to approbation or vilification by a society of “watchers”.

For a time they enjoy the first, fashioning themselves as a fashion, but are ultimately done in by the second, another minority skewered by the majority’s intolerance.

Along the way they have a few things to say about true liberty in the American polis, while holding forth on health care, class, art, gastronomy, ethnicity, marriage, babies, homosexuality, commerce, and corporatization.

A journalist of 20 years, Mr. Siciliano impishly details the consensus corruption that greases America’s machine, highlighting the absurd disparities in wealth and treatment, which disqualify the democratic experiment. A prolific screenwriter, his conversations crackle with the Noel Coward-like insight, sophistication and humor one might expect from a group of neo-bohemians sitting around breathing each other’s insalubrious emissions. A voluptuary himself, the author articulates the fact that most of us are charmed by some delicacy or weakness, and personalizes the persecution of those who partake of pleasures at the hands of those who do not.”

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