It’s not often that a book strikes enough cords for me to review it here. Jim, Gwen, and Thomm do enough reviews that another one isn’t needed by me. I enjoy providing the irritating sidebars that starts a lively discussion or just… well irritate people.
But this week I read “Punk Rock and Trailer Parks” by Derf and, as silly as this sounds, it spoke to me. Let me cut the snotty comments off at the pass, not like “little voices spoke to me”, more like “I remember being in the same situations as the characters” spoke to me.
The story is about a group of seniors in High School near Akron Ohio in the late 70’s, and how their lives intersect with the local Punk Rock scene. The ‘main man’ is Otto Pizcok, the typical nerdy, Tolkien quoting, band geek who finds local punk music scene and finds himself as the same time. This sounds like a cheesy rehash of a million other coming of age stories but this one is different. This one involves punk music!
It all starts when a couple of guys need a ride to the show one night. The only person willing to take them to the show is Otto. After the show, Otto is completely enthralled with punk music and the local scene, becoming an immediate fan of both. Because of his size, Otto is hired as a bouncer at the club, and the rest of the book involves Otto’s encounters with Punk music. Otto manages to experience everything from bowling with punk rock stars, arguing music politics with a critic, to drug crazed band mates.
For me, two things really set this story apart from all those other coming of age stories, humor and punk music. Most coming of age stories involve some tragic event that forces the person to grow up, or come to terms with themselves, or their mortality. This story doesn’t have that tragic event. It’s just a person growing up as an outcast and being very happy there. That’s what made the story so memorable for me. Otto was an outcast but he never cared that he was. In fact, Otto relished his outsider status and felt sorry for those on the inside.
Otto’s relishing his outsider status brought back many happy memories of my own high school life. I was very much the outsider and I thoroughly enjoyed my place outside of the system. I was friends with the jocks, and geeks, and art nerds, but I still hung out with the “pit-sters” who smoked in between classes. I was the smart kid that listened to “that kind of music.”
I remember finding unity in my music with others. When Otto rails against the corporate radio stations and “how can people listen to that crap by Journey”, I remember saying the same things. I may have said it about Poison and Bon Jovi but it’s the same thing. When Otto goes to the football game and proceeds to talk to loudly about how much the team sucks and how hypocritical the fans are, I had flashbacks to my own days in the bleachers.
I really enjoyed the music portions of the story too. I may have grown up on Heavy Metal but it’s roots lie in the punk rock scene. The rebelliousness of the punk scene was no different then the music that I listened too. Derf did a great job of having Otto encounter some of the great band of the punk movement including the Ramones and the Clash.
Derf manages to capture all the elements that make high school so awkward. At the same time, he captures all the elements that make music such a unifying element for kids. This is an excellent graphic novel and a must read for fans of the punk music, or any alternative music for that matter.
You can see a 14 page preview here