Author: Charles Romalotti
Publisher: Layman Books
Retail Price: 9.99
Buy on Amazon.com link
In the autobio-novel Salad Days, Charles Romalotti recounts his time growing up as a punk in rural Kansas during the late 80’s. It begins with his traumatic high school days, continuing with a coming-of-age-while-on-tour theme in the latter half, all set in the backdrop of the fledgling hardcore scene.
A lot of years, energy, and passion went into this book, but unfortunately, the book itself is a lesson in poor writing. Overly long descriptions and clichs galore, Romalotti has a metaphor for everything, like a punk version of an unrestrained 40’s pulp novel. (It’s a 100-page story stretched into 300.) That’s not so bad in itself, but the mechanics are clunky. The book is written in first person, but the descriptions have a third person perspective, making the intelligent reader wonder how the main character could be privy to some of the information.
The dialogue is the same; characters seem to have the insight only made possible by the hindsight and wishful thinking of the author. The main character Frank doesn’t seem real, but more of an idealized, perfect straightedge intellectual pacifist punk, unshaken in his beliefs and self-confidence, and always with the snappy, clichd comebacks that no one ever actually says. For instance: “Why are you straightedge?” “Because I can be.”
Another problem is that, at times, Salad Days seems more like a collection of personal recounts and amusing memories, that are more there for the author’s catharsis or reflection than to move the story along.
Another annoyance are the tons of punk references and in-jokes. Unnecessary statements like “The Descendents gave it their ALL” and “The Offspring? Never heard of them” pepper the narrative every chance it gets. It might give some punks a chuckle, but it’s eye-rolling in its excessiveness.
Salad Days is interesting in that it offers the perspective of a young Kansas punk and his participation in the younger hardcore scene. Unfortunately, the perspective tends to come out of the hindsight of the 30-something author instead of from the teenage characters. All in all, a good trip down memory lane, but a banal book to read.
Bottom Line: Clunky, cliched punk fiction.