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SALAD DAYS
by Charles Romalotti.  Fiction, 2000. 300 Pages. Layman Books Salad Days is the story of young Frank Smith, who makes a palpably cool journey from high school punk rock outcast in his small town of Iola, Kansas to front man of regional hardcore legends The Jerk Offs and beyond. Throughout the story, Frank seems to always be striving for what is good and pure in the world.  He finds what he’s looking for in the emerging hardcore scene of the mid-‘80s, but he’s smart enough to take things with a grain of salt.  While finding redemption in listening to- and ultimately creating- this music, Frank also comes away with the realization that your local punk scene can be just as trendy and rigid as any other social hierarchy. This ability to fully understand situations and all their varied subtexts helps make Frank a really likable character.  By the end of the story, he’s able to come to terms with his life, and the last page of the book actually gave me goose bumps.
     I think my favorite part of Salad Days centers around Frank’s first cross-country tour with Jerk Offs.  Romalotti’s writing makes you feel like you were there- all the random weirdness and fucked up situations are captured in fantastic detail.  And from what I see at the Layman Press web site, Romalotti lived at least some of Frank’s life firsthand.
     This is a solid read, and anybody with an ounce of passion for what this music is all about will have a hard time putting it down. It’s also the kind of book that you feel compelled to pass on to a friend, and that’s exactly what I did. Getting to experience books like Salad Days, which I might not otherwise know of if I didn’t write for Askew, makes me happy that I do this. –Ben Hunter

 

 

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