Visual Vitrol – The Street Art and Subcultures of the Punk and Hardcore Generation – David A. Ensminger
University Press of Mississippi, 3825 Ridgewood Road, Jackson, MS 39211-6492, Usa, www.uprewss.state.ms.us
I was expecting a book about gig flyers, when I saw it is published by „University of Mississippi“ I knew there would be more…. I could have done without that more, but lets start somewhere else. The paperback version has + 300 pages of which 111 feature black and white illustrations and 23 pages are in colour (it is always great to browse thru old flyers, looking at the artwork and the line ups, good fun!).
And right, the almost other half of the book is text, subdivided in nine chapters. Now it might be asked how can one write so much text about flyers…. well, Ensminger does not only write about the art and history of punk flyer art, but also about the „subcultures“: „convergence of punk and skateboarding“, „queer punk and hardcore“, „women of punk“, „hispanics in punk and hardcore“ to just name a few. And while the author has a lot of knowledge about the subject in general and has quotes ready of all the „known persons“ that are quoted in many other books he dissipates himself with all the academic, analysies and conclusions, leading to even more….
I understand haveing a university as publisher the author has to use this kind of language, but the habit of using foreign words exessively is nothing that can impress your regular reader. Therefore that particular part of this quote from the release sheet is just not true: „Visual Vitriol is a smart, grounded, and detailed account that reveals how punks visualize their attitudes and aesthetics and how they talk to each other about complicated and heated issues. Writing in an accessible style for non-specialists, enthusiasts of punk and subculture studies, as well as academics, Ensminger incoperates an important array of scholary work, ranging from the fields of sociology and feminism to musciology and folklore“.
While the book has undoubtly many great parts that are interesting to read those are buried by the mass of text that is written for the academics. I wish there would be 2 books, this and one without all the academic crap. Unfortunately you dont see the wood for the trees. And there is some good, interesting wood in here, you can bet. While alot of it is not „new“ it is worth reading, believe me, I did. I’m a bit devided, some of it is a pain in the ass to read, other parts are interesting so I can not give a go or no on this book. If you only concentrate on the flyers none of this will interest you. In the end 15 pages of „notes“… know what I mean? (dolf) 35.- $
[Trust # 153 April 2012]