Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the 20th Century

By Greil Marcus (1989)
Acclaimed rock reviewer/author Marcus offers up a fascinating thesis: that modern consciousness is to a great extent shaped by events or documents “insignificant” of themselves but collectively very important indeed, perhaps even definitive. While spending much of its time on the impact of the Sex Pistols, this is not purely a “rock-music” book–along the way one encounters various ranters, Dadaists, nihilists, whatever–even Theodore Dreiser. If it lacks the rigor demanded of academic historiography, Marcus’s book is still great popular culture, and academic historians would do well to be interested. Meanwhile, the cross-referential treatment gives a seeming (at least) validity that sheer facts wouldn’t to the idea of a “secret history” that permeates unobtrusively and yields more meaning than many would like to believe.

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