Journalist and novelist. Rolling Stone, New York, NY, contributing editor and writer.
Sacco and Vanzetti Must Die! (novel), Dalkey Archive Press (Normal, IL), 2006.
Mark Binelli's first novel, Sacco and Vanzetti Must Die! was inspired by the true-life story of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, Italian-American anarchists who were executed in 1927. However, instead of staying true to his journalistic roots, Binelli veers quickly into fiction and reinvents the duo as a vaudeville comedy team styled on Laurel and Hardy who makes it big in silent-era Hollywood. The narrative is augmented by invented diary entries, magazine interviews, and newspaper accounts that highlight the team's immigrant status and which explain their social theories of comedy. Portraying a pair of legendary knife throwers in films such as Never a Dull Moment, Sacco and Vanzetti develop a populist appeal that lands them a spot on a USO tour with Bob Hope, where they chat with Charlie Chaplin and perform in Italy. But then things turn bad. After President McKinley is assassinated, the pair winds up in jail.
Binelli mixes popular culture with political history to weave a story that has little to do with the real Sacco and Vanzetti and more to do with a celebration of anarchy and comedy—or rather the anarchy that is comedy. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly called the novel "ambitious in scope and brimming with sharp-edged black humor." Through his story, Binelli, who is a first-generation Italian-American and the son of a professional knife-sharpener, reveals his interest in the "social construction of ethnicity," according to Brendan Driscoll in a review for Booklist. Most critics hailed Binelli as a writer to watch and praised the novel, though some acknowledged its shortcomings. Etelka Lehoczky summarized in the New York Times Book Review, "its joyful nostalgia, pinpoint characterizations and postmodern brio more than make up for a weak second reel."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Believer, October, 2006, Morgan Meis, review of Sacco and Vanzetti Must Die!
Booklist, September 1, 2006, Brendan Driscoll, review of Sacco and Vanzetti Must Die!, p. 51.
Entertainment Weekly, July 28, 2006, Troy Patterson, review of Sacco and Vanzetti Must Die!, p. 71.
Library Journal, June 1, 2006, Jim Dwyer, review of Sacco and Vanzetti Must Die!, p. 106.
New York Times Book Review, July 30, 2006, Etelka Lehoczky, review of Sacco and Vanzetti Must Die!, p. 12.
Publishers Weekly, March 6, 2006, Judith Rosen, review of Sacco and Vanzetti Must Die!, p. 39.
Reviewer's Bookwatch, August, 2006, Jason Warrant, review of Sacco and Vanzetti Must Die!
San Francisco Chronicle, July 28, 2006, Malena Watrous, review of Sacco and Vanzetti Must Die!, p. E4.
Center for Book Culture Web site,http://www.centerforbookculture.org/ (May 11, 2007), Theodore McDermott, "An Interview with Mark Binelli."
Mark Binelli Home Page,http://www.markbinelli.com (May 11, 2007).