Playing Right Field: A Jew Grows up in Greenwich – Book
by George Tabb
Soft Skull Press
George Tabb is a punk rock veteran that you may or may not have heard of. He did time in the Florida hardcore band, Roach Motel, as well as False Prophets, Iron Prostate, and later his own band, Furious George. He also has been a writer for Maximumrocknroll for a great many years now. In fact, his column in MRR was one of the few reasons I still wouldn’t miss an issue for years up until I had to stop buying it due to lack of income. It was one of the things I looked forward too most each issue, and always was the most entertaining thing about that zine.
This book is a collection of stories about George’s childhood starting when he moved to Greenwich with what sounds like the world’s worst and most abusive father. George was picked on for being a Jew in a town that Jews were looked down on as second class citizens. Throughout the years he endured beatings, ridicule, embarrassment, entertainment, and more every day of his life at school, only to come home and get the same treatment by his dad, step-mom and step-sisters! Somehow through all the torment, George has managed to keep a level head and he tells the stories in such a way that it makes you laugh just as much as you also feel for him. His writing style is simple yet unique, he is really great at hooking you in with an excerpt, then giving you the back story leading up to what you just read, all the while keeping you on the edge of your seat waiting to find out what happened. It is done so well it really makes it hard to put the book down. In fact I read this book probably faster than any other book I’ve ever held just due to the fact that I was so taken with the stories, that I wanted to keep hearing more.
If there is one complaint I had it’s that the book was so interesting I refused to put it down and before I knew it, it was over! When I finished it, I wanted to email George and ask him a bunch of questions, and ask him to tell me some more stories! Some of the stories in this book appeared in his columns in MRR over the years, so if you are familiar with his writing and enjoyed it, you’ll definitely want to pick up this book. For me, someone who looks up to every person to ever play in a punk band that I bought records by, it was really cool to be able to get a glimpse at the growing up of one of my punk rock peers (and he does cover how he came to hear and see The Ramones for the first time), especially when the tales are told in such a fascinating way. I can’t recommend it enough and if you are anything like me, you’ll be craving more, which thankfully there now is…
Surfing Armageddon: Fishnets, Fascists, and Body Fluids in Florida – book
by George Tabb
Soft Skull Press
Since I was sent both of these books in the same package, as soon as I finished the first one I immediately opened up this new one and dug in. The first thing I noticed is it was a lot thicker than the first one, which meant only one thing – more to read! My initial thought was, “sweet, this one will last longer than the last one”, which was true, but because I enjoyed it even more than the first one, I think I read it just as fast!
Surfing Armageddon sort of picks up where the first one left off. It starts with George and his dysfunctional family packing up and leaving Greenwich to move down to Florida where his father has dreams of recreating the plantation from Gone with the Wind as the Tabb family home. George is in high school at this point and hopes that the change of scenery will mean no more beatings, ridicule, and embarrassment, at least outside of the home. Sadly, yet also in funny a dark humor kind of way, his stories reveal that the south was pretty much equally as unkind as the north. While The Ramones and Rocky Horror Picture Show have changed his life and put him on the course that helped make him the punk rock man he is today, he wasn’t without his share of sad, yet darkly funny tales to tell.
Throughout the high school and college years depicted in this book, George discovers the joy of masturbation, punk rock, trying to get laid, getting a job, a car, all while enduring discrimination at the hands (and fists) of his peers, and his father. In many ways for me, because of the time frame represented in the stories, it was easier for me to relate to more of the stories in this book for the simple fact that I have a much easier time remembering that era of my life as opposed to my grade school years.
The book is written in the exact style of the first one, which couldn’t have been written any better. I have always loved George Tabb’s writing style since I first started reading his stuff in Maximumrocknroll, and in fact I’m quite envious of it. I really wish I had the talent of hooking you in and turning even tragic tales into dark humor the way that Tabb does. He has a talent that I hope I’m able to continue to enjoy reading for years to come. On top of delivering some fine punk rock over the years, George has now delivered the written word in an even more enjoyable fashion. The book ends on a very satisfying note too, which is all I can say without revealing anything.
Just like the first one, this book easily gets my highest recommendation, in fact even more so than the first for the simple fact that it is longer and the stories are even more enjoyable and even more humorous, though you’d be doing yourself a favor by picking them both up, as you’ll get through them pretty quickly and I guarantee that you’ll be wishing there was more.
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