Rock & Roll Books
Sit Down and Shut Up: Punk Rock Commentaries on Buddha, God, Truth, Sex, Death, & Dogen's Treasury of the Right Dharma Eye
by Brad Warner
New World Library, 255 pp., $14.95 (paper)
My So-Called Punk: Green Day, Fall Out Boy, the Distillers, Bad Religion How NeO-Punk Stage-Dived Into the Mainstream
by Matt Diehl
St. Martin's Griffin, 241 pp., $14.95 (paper)
by Susie J. Horgan
Universe, 125 pp., $25
"Long before I was a Zen monk, I was a punk rock bass player," begins Brad Warner in his second book, Sit Down and Shut Up: Punk Rock Commentaries on Buddha, God, Truth, Sex, Death, & Dogen's Treasury of the Right Dharma Eye (from green publisher New World Library). That mouthful could be Zen Buddhism for Dummies, as Warner, who played bass for Akron, Ohio, hardcore band Zero Defects, has a knack for laying down the nothingness for regular folks. Concentrating on the act of zazen the practice of sitting, curled up like a pretzel, and "staring at a wall," as he puts it the hardcore Zen author mixes stories from 13th century Zen master Dogen Zenji and his tome Shobogenzo with the tale of one last reunion show 20 years after the death of Zero Defects. Now an ordained Buddhist monk in L.A., Warner splays out the laws of Buddhism like any good punk rocker should: Chapters like "Kill Your Anger," "Evil Is Stupid," "Buddha Is Boring," and "Enlightenment Is for Sissies" might sound cute, but he's serious. And he's probably the closest thing to enlightened this musical generation has ever seen.
More straight-ahead punk(ish) expletives come from music journalist Matt Diehl in his history of the new "punk" (post-1994 only), My So-Called Punk: Green Day, Fall Out Boy, the Distillers, Bad Religion How Neo-Punk Stage-Dived Into the Mainstream. Hitting punk clichés while mingling Sublime and Blink-182 with early memories of the Clash, Diehl's first-person essay is for fans of mainstream pop-punk only. Punk Love, photographer Susie J. Horgan's visual accounting of the early Washington, D.C., hardcore scene needs no words, although it's eloquently introduced by Henry Rollins and Ian MacKaye. Spending her time in the D.C. scene while studying photography at Georgetown and scooping Häagen-Dazs with the punks (Rollins and MacKaye included), Horgan accidentally documented the birth of a movement from the inside. The late-blooming result is a yearbook of beautiful faces, more smiles than blood, more youthful than mean, and every bit as innocent as you may remember. Punk rock isn't dead. It's just become a nostalgic bridge to a better life.