Sunday, October 21, 2007

Party Monster - A Review (Originally Disco Bloodbath)

I covered the movie, Party Monster, as well as some extra thoughts on Michael Alig and the murder of Angel Melendez in some detail over to The Rundown, but seeing as how I don't post here as often as I would like to and have been promising more activity, I thought I would give my review of the book here.

I can say this much for Party Monster by James St. James (previously published under the title, Disco Bloodbath), it is a damn fine read. I received it around 2-3:00 this afternoon and read the entire thing by the evening. Actually, a neighbor woke me up a little after Midnight to use the phone to call his dopeman (who else's number do you carry around with you on a little, folded piece of paper and call at 12:30 at night?), and I had about half of it left, so I just finished a few minutes ago.

However, James is an erratic writer. A few pithy statements were well-written, but by and large, Party Monster/Disco Bloodbath is a rambling, disconnected collection of drug-addled anecdotes. Without the movie and subsequent readings of other accounts and articles, I don't know that I would have known what this book is really supposed to be about. I never would have really known that it was about a murder; that would have seemed more like just another story, which is kind of the effect James was going for, I suppose. It succeeded on that level.

Very little is actually talked about the murder, itself. Instead, Party Monster rambles on and on in vignettes of drug-induced comas, drug-addicted has-beens, and club outings. Peter Gatien, a major player in the movie, is mentioned only a handful of times, as are Gitsie, Keoki, and the rest of the ever-changing cast of club kids. In the end, it is far more a personal memoir than any sort of "true crime" account or tale of... anything, really.

While a good, fast, fun read (I have to admit I couldn't put it down), Party Monster is a sometimes well-written memoir of a drug-addict and nothing more than that. You really do have to see the movie to know what the book is about, which is a weird, kind of backward way of working through the story.

All told, I, like James St. James, don't know that anyone will ever know what really happened the night Angel Melendez died, nor what happened in the days and weeks following his death and dismemberment. But Party Monster doesn't even really try to figure it out - it hardly even mentions the whole incident which propelled the author to write the book! Instead, while an important personal memoir, it is really more backdrop to the actual event(s) than any sort of reporting of them. The movie is actually far more detailed than the book.

And the bizarre style in which James writes is downright annoying by the end. The effect of the constantly broken paragraphs and italics, not to mention the many boldfaced expressions and words that really do not need emphasis, works on some level, but for the most part, they are more distracting than anything else. A fun, funny, fast read, that definitely fills in many of the blanks as to the club kids scene and paints a bleak and all-too-familiar portrait of excess left unchecked, but not much aside from that.

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