High fives to Ronen Kauffman for head stomping all over my pretentious attitude about what good literature should be. When I first heard about this book’s release I was glad to see a paperback devoted to the subject matter but I was a little annoyed that yet another memoir was hitting the shelves. Are people self-centered enough to think their lives are book worthy? When New Brunswick, New Jersey, Goodbye was in my hands I opened to the first page, expecting Kauffman’s work to be worthy of the cannon, or maybe on par, to Jack Kerouac’s and some of my other literary heroes who use their own lives as a springboard for the story. Not even a sentence in, I was let down. From the first chapter Kauffman’s writing takes a conversational tone, creating a style more similar to barroom story telling than “literature.” This disgusted me, thinking again that this was just another memoir by some lucky blogger. But as I read on, his stories felt like some of my own punk rock escapades, and his description of first hearing Green Day made me want to run to my mother’s house to dig up Operation Ivy’s album and the other classic Lookout Records gems.
Having gotten into punk roughly eight years ago through bands like MXPX and NOFX, I still feel like a newbie of sorts. But Kauffman’s book reminded me of something: during my first days, and his, and everyone’s before us, this music wasn’t the commodity it is today. Sure, it was still only an image to a degree, but that image was used more for self-expression, not for fitting in like it is today. Yeah, we had the Warped Tour, but the music wasn’t as accessible; Punk, hardcore, and screamo were not top forty. Bands certainly weren’t playing arenas and you’d be damn lucky to find the albums you want in a chain store, because waiting for your CD to come through mail order was a bitch. Punk at that time was something holy, which brought me to another realization.
His stories make me think that maybe I’m taking this music for granted now; no longer is it the sacred text I once treated it as. While I still go totally ape shit for some bands, reading Kauffman’s retelling of his first shows made me feel a little jaded about the scene, that I might have lost the fervent passion I had for punk and hardcore. While I consider myself pretentious about music, my ego-tripping is minimal compared to some of my peers, and this book made me fall in love with punk all over again, letting me realize how much it helped shape me during early adulthood and I shouldn’t whine about how stale the scene has become. Anyone who’s been in this scene before 2000 and throws around “back in the day” stories, pick this book up not only to restore your faith, but also for some good reminiscing. To all the punk rock historians, this book provides some excellent back history of the New Jersey scene, accounts of stories that have been talked about for years, most notably the incident where the vocalist of Ink and Dagger threw dairy products at Earth Crisis. Again, for all the OG Peeps, I believe he even describes a show that was featured on the Victory video Release.
Not only does this book document punk and hardcore during the second half of the nineties but it also has some excellent college stories proving how much music affects our lives. The two best detail receiving secondhand threats from Korn after writing a bad review of their performance at his college and another involving late night hijinks that escalates into a skinhead brawl.
Like Kauffman, I am a teacher, and to educate kids about the importance of music as well as to start a dialogue about “finding yourself” is tough but I think this book would be a perfect reading selection, which made me rethink his writing style. Because it is so conversational this book is perfect for anyone who isn’t an avid reader or hates it altogether. The style is easy to read while being enlightening as well as entertaining.
8.8 / 10
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Posted May 30, 2007, 2:21 a.m.
Ronen Kauffman has announced a number of upcoming events in conjunction with release of his book New Brunswick, New Jersey, Goodbye - Bands, Dirty Basments, and the Search for Self, which ...
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