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Jokerman 8 [Paperback]

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Item Number 255498  
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Item description for Jokerman 8 by Richard Melo...

Jokerman 8 is a posse of forest radicals based out of San Francisco State University that engages in a series of demonstrations and stunts to protest environmental destruction: they sink whaling ships in Iceland and stage a "tree-in" in southern Oregon, then party to let off steam. Along the way, numerous subplots merge the past (1960s) with the present (1990s): a young man tries to escape the draft, and yippies succeed in levitating the Pentagon. Challenging and irreverent, the text moves at a breakneck pace, stopping just long enough to question how the world got the way it is and how it might be fixed.

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Item Specifications...

Pages   280
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.8" Width: 5.8" Height: 0.9"
Weight:   0.95 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Aug 31, 2004
Publisher   Soft Skull Press
ISBN  1932360344  
ISBN13  9781932360349  

Availability  0 units.

More About Richard Melo

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Richard Melo's writing has appeared in The Believer and the Gobshite Quarterly. This is his first book. He lives in Portland, OR.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > General > Contemporary
2Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > General > Literary
3Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > General

Reviews - What do customers think about Jokerman 8?

I tried. I just couldn't do it.  Jul 18, 2008
Richard Melo, Jokerman 8 (Soft Skull, 2004)

A friend of mine passed this onto me a couple of years ago. It took me a while to get round to actually picking it up, which I simply attributed to laziness and a pile of books to be read that grows to resemble the Matterhorn more with every passing day. Then I actually read the back copy, and realized that there was some sort of psychic vibration driving me away. Still, I'd promised myself (and my friend) that I'd give it a go, so I did. Silly me. I normally give books fifty pages before consigning them to a short life of flight out a window, but I broke the rule slightly on this one; a new chapter began at page forty-eight, and it was the longest chapter I'd encountered so far, so I catapulted it on its way after only forty-eight pages. Given the problems I had with the book, I can be relatively sure that it wasn't going to get any better.

Jokerman 8 tells the story, if the back copy is to be believed, of an ecoterrorist organization. I'm oversimplifying, of course, but there it is. But apart from a few words from the narrator, the first forty-eight pages takes place in flashback, to the leader of the group's (I'm supposing here, apologies if I'm incorrect) genesis and youth. I got a distinct sense of Mervyn Peake here (you know, the chap who wanted to write a thousand-page book whose protagonist turned two at the end?), but Richard Melo is by no stretch of the imagination Mervyn Peake; any humor and intrigue to be found in these pages was entirely lost on me.

My problem was less with the story itself than with the writing style. I was soured on the book from the opening pages, the "few words from the narrator" I mentioned earlier, which are just plain awful. I soldiered on, hoping that the writing would get better once we got into more structured territory, but it didn't; where in matters of form I was put in mind of Mervyn Peake, stylistically I got a very strong sense of Tom Robbins with a dash of Richard Brautigan (more in the sense of social consciousness than humor). Now, I'm perfectly willing to admit that my problem with the style could well be my failing, since I've loathed every Tom Robbins book I've ever tried to read, but once again I have to say: Richard Melo is no Tom Robbins. There's the same sense of absurdity in the situations and in the actions of the characters, but there's no real coherence to it. The most apt comparison I can some up with is that Melo is Sjoman's I Am Curious to Robbins being Makavejev's WR: Mysteries of the Organism. You might get a few chuckles amidst the vast confusion and stupidity of Sjoman, whereas Makavejev actually made a movie worth watching.

In the end, though, I couldn't take it, and out the window it went. Bloody horrible. (zero)

Put aside your preconceptions and pick up Jokerman 8  May 2, 2006
Jokerman 8 is billed as "a rockin, rollin, wild-eyed journey through the American eco-saboteur movement, and a restless multistranded narrative about two pasts that can never be reconstituted: happy childhoods and forests." Reviewers have noted how it moves through the decades with some wild characters and a collective "we" used for the first person narrative. I'm not one for gimmicky books, so I freely admit to being apprehensive about reading and reviewing Jokerman 8. Also, I'm a liberal and a capitalist at heart, and I believe at working for change within the system, so how was I going to get along with a brand of renegade environmentalists?

Melo manages to pull it all off. Music ties the adventures of the edo-sabateurs together, from The Beatles and a daughter named Jude to U2's Joshua Tree, complete with a several-page analysis of "With or Without You." The lyrics and allusions in Melo's prose made me want to run out and listen to these albums. His characters are off-the-wall but always shine with their true colors in a way that endears them to the reader. I admired Willie Shoman's principled approach to his tree-spiking jail sentence, as he chose not to kowtow to the man to get a shortened sentence. I cracked up at the dedication of Eleanor Cookee, who wanted to set up a Wildlife Legal Cooperative, but couldn't find any lawyers in California to donate their time, since time is money. "She does find, however, lawyers who are willing to donate money, which is, in turn, used to hire lawyers. Frequently, she hires back the same lawyers who donated the money in the first place." One the machine is in place, Eleanor loses interest and looks for new challenges.

Melo's book is one that has a generation-spanning audience. The characters are children of the 1960's, but many of their ideals are still held by today's young activists. It's certainly not for everyone, but pick this up if you have an open mind or want to remember a time when you cared more about saving the world than your own personal gain.
Read Jokerman. Repeat.  Aug 3, 2005
I like how he uses Beatles tunes as a thread to weave through storyline. Read Jokerman just to hear the story of a girl named Jude. :) Plethora of earthy, rich, colorful visuals plop you, amazed into his 60's and 70's Oregon forest rain, startling and fluid movement rush you back in forth from idealistic decades to current time, and you realize idealism still thrives. Read this book with your friends, to your children, out loud around the campfire, because this is a book that will hook monkey hearts who celebrate facts like love and hope, unabashed, are sustainable. This is the book that teaches us how important it is to take turns on each others shoulders.

An Ode to Joy  Mar 12, 2005
Jokerman 8 follows a shifting group of eco-saboteurs in the eighties, from their loose beginnings at college to the end of their days as a group. Individual characters are memorably described, but most of the action happens smack in the middle of a collective consciousness. The author accomplishes this through the use of a rare device--first person plural narration, the collective "we." I can't think of it being used in any book besides The Virgin Suicides, which is another incredible portrait of time and place. The "we" places us in the middle of missions to protect old-growth timber stands, Canadian wolves, and more. The "we" invites the reader in and along. It's uncanny. You have to read the book to understand what a joyful stomping journey it is.
A Novel of Friendship  Feb 11, 2005
Stories told around singular events often have the unfortunate distinction of being remembered for the small details, at the expense of the big picture. Think the rape scene in Deliverance or El Gordo's Last Stand in For Whom the Bell Tolls.

Jokerman 8 has no dearth of singular events. Some are quite spectacular, moving and memorable. But a careful reading will reveal that the bigger picture looms over all these events. Just as Hemingway complained that his tale was one of loyalty, and not war, Melo could easily make the case that Jokerman 8 is nothing more than an ode to friendship. The people we love, and more importantly, who return that love, overshadow any incident, whether it's the levitation of the Pentagon or the sinking of a ship.

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