Sacco And Vanzetti Must Die

Book Review by Willard Manus

No, this isn't a book about the infamous Italian anarchists put to death in 1927 by the U.S. government for the robbery and murder of a factory guard and paymaster in South Braintree, Mass. Mark Binelli turns the martyrs into a comedy team patterned after Laurel & Hardy (though the real Sacco & Vanzetti make cameo appearances), and puts them through a picaresque and dizzying series of screwball adventures involving the likes of Calvin Coolidge, Helen Keller, Primo Carnera, Lon Chaney, Ezra Pound and Bob Hope, to name but a few. This is post-modern literature with a vengeance; the story spools out in fits and starts, employs journal entries, newspaper snippets and authorial asides to build its narrative trajectory (much like a William Burroughs collage). History is toyed with, character as well, but the exploration of American showbiz, zenophobia and racism gives the novel a solid underpinning.

Our heroes take on somber, introspective overtones by book's end and begin to feel more like Vladimir & Estragon than Laurel & Hardy: "What, after all, can be 'known,'" one of them wonders, "if the most knowledgeable amongst us knows so little?"

(Dalkey Archive Press, $14.95 ppbk).