8 - The Michigan Daily - Friday, October 17, 1997
Hagedorn is no joker with 'Gangster'*
By Cara Spindler
For the Daily
In a recent phone interview, Jessica H agedorn
claimed she dislikes commenting on herself because
"I don't want to be self-conscious (in my work). I pre-
sent the landscape as I see it," she said.
"The Gangster of Love," her second novel, speaks
strongly for itself in a brilliant
combination that mixes language
and style in the story of Rocky I F
Rivera, who moved to California
from the Philippines the day that JessI
Jimi Hendrix died. "Ga
"The Gangster of Love" focus-
es on Rocky and her journey as
an artist in a time spanning from
the '60s through the '80s. Hagedorn's description of
that journey is eloquent.
"I tried to capture a difficult time to capture, the
'80s and that commercialization of art ... identity and
culture, that American landscape."
It is important to mention that Rocky is in a band.
And she comes of age in this novel, kind of.
The book is fast-paced, like the American pop cul-
tural work that it is.
And this breakneck speed works because the char-
acters are fleshed out and their stories complex.
The different characters and styles stick out in the
book, their eccentricities and interactions blatantly
There is the mother Milagros, who would grab her
makeup bag as her most prized possession in an earth-
quake, runs a lumpia catering business, and follows
Rocky with frantic phone calls across the U.S.
Milagros leaves her philandering husband and oldest
daughter in the Philippines, determined to prove that
she can make it own her own.
Characters like her form the
undercurrent of the text: Rocky's
E V I E W brother Voltaire, who is only a bit
crazy, and her friend Keiko,
a Hagedorn whose past changes daily. The
ster of Love" Reading depth of the characters' stories
Tonight at 8 p.m. creates a novel that is interwoven
Shaman Drum Books and complex.
Hagedorn's strength as a poet
permeates her work: "I am a poet, after all, and I don't
divorce myself from it."
The novel is broken up by too-real scenes of sub-
ways, short insertions of "Los Blah-Blahs" (which are
"extras" but essential to the rhythm of the book) and
fantastical conversations/dramatic pieces between
Rocky, her sometime-boyfriend Elvis Chang, and Jimi
The chapters switch between an omniscient narrator
and Rocky herself speaking, as an all-encompassing
mosaic of a character's life.
Like a poem, "The Gangster of Love" is imperme-"
able to neat dissection; although full of words, images
and rhythm, the work must be viewed in its entirety.
Hagedorn evokes a world with fantastical elements
that is firmly grounded in reality.
In this context, we see Rocky's changing identity. It
is a coming-of-age book, yes, call it that. "But what is
love? A young girl asks. A fatal mosquito bite, the
nuns warn her."
It is this blending of sober and lush that stark
Hagedorn's wild mosaic spanning America with dii-
ferent voices and Rocky's aptly named life. There is a
textual depth that is harsh, vibrant, and subtly woven.
On the cover, there is a New York Times Book
Review quote that "The Gangster of Love" is about
learning to operate in another language. Tagalog,
Spanish and possibly more are in the book, though the
writing is primarily in English.
The book operates with its multiple languages, and
"I am from a trilingual home and it comes natura
ly to me instead of sticking to one primary langua
..I think English is evolving in America," Hagedorn
"It's an American dilemma, a neurosis to categorize
everyone by their race and sexual preference. There's
a need to tag people."
Likewise, Hagedorn's book and its characters can-
not be simply tagged as a coming of age story. It's a
blending of elements.
Jessica Hagedorn is reading at Shaman, tonight.
Come out and see her, and experience Rocky Rivera'
fantastical world. W
No, not Steve Miller. Jessica Hagedom brings "Gangster of Love" to Ann Arbor.
Even with good cop Tupac Shakur, corrupted B-flick 'Gang' can't relate
By Michael Zilberman
Daily Arts Writer
If bumper stickers and grade-B flicks are accurate barom-
eters of national sentiment, then "Question Authority"
appears to be our official new motto.
The newfound disdain for the powers
that be is very nicely personified by the R
sinister trinity of Government
Conspirator, Evil CEO and Bad Cop.
The last dude is probably the most dis-
quieting because there's: a) ample docu-
mentary evidence at hand and b) decent
chance of actually meeting one. And if
movies like "Bad Lieutenant" played up the idea as a shock-
ing novelty, the new comic thriller "Gang Related" treats it
like a given, an already mundane bit of common knowledge.
Exactly how bad are the cops of "Gang Related?"
So bad that they buy drugs with confiscated money, plug
the dealer, keep both the drugs and the dough and write off
the killing as a murky gang-war incident (hence the title).
And then do it again. Ten times.
Tupac Shakur, as a better-dressed half of the crooked
couple, retains shreds of humanity - he does what he does
to repay a gambling debt - while Belushi, bloated and
unshaven, strolls around loudly con-
vincing himself that the scheme is
E V I E W actually designed for a greater good of
Gang Related the humanity.
His argument somewhat weakens
** when the latest victim turns out to be
an undercover DEA agent, catapulting
At showcase the pair into the state of constant
manic improvisation: With every-
body's eyes on them, the boys have to produce a murder
weapon, pull both a witness and a credible suspect com-
pletely out of the hat, and make themselves look good doing
Here's where the film starts doing to the widening bad-
cop canon what "Absolute Power" did to the White House
crime epics, namely turning it into a circus.
Each new step reveals uncharted depths of ineptitude in
everyone involved, and the resulting sniping between the
heroes is (occasionally) priceless.
For instance, the moment where Belushi asks his partner
to imagine a "worst-case scenario," and Shakur's escalating
wail of a reply ("Worst case? We get caught, we go to jail,
we get the chair and we burn in Hell" - worse?!!).
It's become a glib journalistic cliche to state that late rap-
per Shakur would have probably gone on to have a terrific
acting career, but "Gang Related" provides yet another
proof. Granted, he's a tad hard to swallow as a cop, bad or
otherwise, and designer duds make him look like Montel
But the performance at the core of all this is understated,
assured and even touching.
Like so many recent productions, "Gang Related" is a
two-faced Janus, and each face is trying to bite the other one
on the nose.
A part of it wants to be a wacky caper about idiot crooks,
but the gravity of the situation (lI corpses all in all) kills the
tone. Another part strains to be a gritty urban drama, but try
sustaining grit when your antiheroes keep shooting them-
selves in the kneecaps.
In its second half, "Gang Related" starts resorting to the
mustiest, almost vaudevillian, plot reversals (a street bu
targeted as a patsy turns out to be a millionaire) and sight
gags like a gnome of a Mob boss next to his towering body-
If that's not enough, the movie ladles on cameos by James
Earl Jones and unrecognizable Dennis Quaid, both appar-
ently owing someone a favor.
A more subtle directorial touch could have made it all a
pleasurable oddity, a minor urban "Fargo"; no such luck.
The coda is such a jaw-dropping cheat that the tacked-on
title "In memory of Tupac Shakur" feels borderline insult-
The man didn't exactly go out in the blaze of glory off-
screen, but his short film career could use a better epitaph.
As for police corruption, one might as well wait for the
"Naked Gun" crew to take on the topic.
Read Daily Arts next week for your
chance to win passes to an exclusive
sneak preview of "The House of Yes," a
new comedy starring indie queen Parker
Posey and TV queen Tori Spelling.
crashes and burns
Shaming of the Sun
on r_ ORLD TOUR
Honey I'm Homely
Lets get down to brass tacks, folks.
This album just didn't do it for me. At
one time, I had something of a fancy for
the Dancehall Crashers, believe me, but
"Honey I'm Homely" falls short of any
goals the band might have had for this
release. Basically, this CD is 15 tracks
The Dancehall Crashers have been
around for a long time, but that's no
excuse for releasing a less-than-spec-
tacular album. The fact is that
since the creation of
DHC, the band has s
changed its lineup
and sound several
times -- not an
asset bands strive
for in the record
Formed by now-
punk superstars Tim
Armstrong and Matt
Freeman (of Rancid) as a side project in
1989, DHC never really got around to
forming its current line-up until 1995.
"Lockjaw," released that year, sounds
like the blueprint for this latest record.
"Honey" is full of the band's now-char-
acteristic vocal harmonies (one of the
outstanding points of the album),
cheesy guitar licks and subdued horn
tracks. On a level of raw technical skill
(I to 10), 1 give DHC a solid 5.
And speaking of horns on this album,
well, for a band that considers itself part
"ska" (whatever that may mean), I can't
understand why horn players that aren't
part of the band are part of several
tracks throughout the album. Don't
record something that can't be pulled
off live by the members of the band.
That's simply a misrepresenta-
tion of your band and how
Believe it or not,
there are things that I
like about this
album. As I men-
tioned earlier, the
vocal harmonies of
lead singers (yes, there
are two of them) Karina
Denike and Elyse Rogers are the
saving grace of "Honey I'm Homely."
Songs like "Whisky & Gin" and "Mr.
Blue" both reminded me how much I
enjoyed "Lockjaw." There are a few
(read two or three) other tracks that you
can sing along to, but that in no way
makes up for the mediocrity that pre-
dominates the bulk of the record.
Unfortunately, there isn't much more
I can say. There's not very much to
comment on, good or bad. Their live
show should be exciting, but as far as
The Dancehall Crashers storm Into Clutch Cargo's on Saturday.
U of M Office of Major Events Presentation
Reserved seats at the Michigan Union Ticket Office
and all Ticketmaster outlets. Charge at 763-TKTS.
"Honey I'm Homely" goes, stay away
unless you don't mind having another
so-so record taking up space on your
With several national tours under
their belt (in support of bands including
Bad Religion (!), NOFX, Lagwagon
and Pennywise), the Dancehall
Crashers are out on the road again.
Punks Weston and MxPx are along for
the ride. The show comes to Clutch
Cargo's in Pontiac on Saturday. Check
the show out for yourself and come to
your own decision how "Homely" their'
new "Honey" album really is.
- Gabe Fajuri
Interested in Graduate Education and Careers,
in International Affairs?
Join us for a Forum on International Affairs Graduate Programs
Monday, October 20,1997
6:00 - 8:00 pm
University of Michigan, Michigan League
911 North University, Ballroom
" Meet admissions representatives from the professional schools of
international affairs at leading universities.
Discuss admissions requirements, curriculum, joint degree programs
and career opportunities.
" Collect application information on the programs that interest you.
Luke's Peep Show
Compilation Volume 1
Say what you want about Miami Bash
'booty" music, it can't be argued that
good Luke party song will always get
people exited, and often turns boring
parties into memorable ones.
Unfortunately, none of the songs on
"Luke's Peep Show Compilation" are
any good. There isn't one song on this
compilation that is worth giving a sec-
ond listen to and I doubt even the die-
hard party people would want to dance
to Beat Master Clay D's silly
"Kaboose," Down South's annoyin
"No Good But So Good," Luther and
Jiggie's laughable "Take Off Your
Clothes," or the Sugar Hill DJs' redun-
dant "Shake It."
r--- -- - - - - -- - - - - -
20% off all merchandise
Oct. 15-19, 1997
See RECORDS, Page 9