desolation road

All Swing Radio was vampire music. In some towns to be caught listening to All Swing Radio would earn you a fine, fifty days community service, confiscation of the radio, or even a public flogging. It was the music of subversives, terrorists, anarchists who roamed the empty places of the world on their terrain trikes looking for microwave towers into which they could plug their illegal transmitters and broadcast their subversive, terrible, anarchic music to the kids in the dead-end alleys, the empty gymhalls, the backseats of rickshas, closed-down bars, shut-up co-ops, and little Annie Tenembrae/Mandella listening to the Big Big Sound of the New Music under the quilts at two minutes of two in the morning. It was the best music in the world, it set your feet on fire, friend, it made you want to dance, friend, it made the girls hitch up their skirts or roll up their overalls and dance and the boys somersault and back-flip and spin around the floor, or the concrete, or the packed brown earth: the bold, bad basement music of Dharamjit Singh and Hamilton Bohannon, Buddy Mercx and the King of Swing himself, the Man Who Fell Through the Time Warp: Glenn Miller, and his Orchestra. It was basement music from smoky cellars deep under Belladonna and hole-in-the-wall recording studios with names like American Patrol and Yellow Dog and Zoot Money: it was music that shocked your mother, it was All Swing Radio, and it was illegal.

It was illegal because it was propaganda though it carried no political message. It was subversion through joy.”

– from Desolation Road by Ian McDonald.

Martian magical realism from Belfast. Interconnected short stories arced into a novel. Heavy on the alliteration. A NonWestern.



4 thoughts on “ALL SWING RADIO”

  1. Ian McDonald is awesome. Did you get this one? I want it, I thought about buying it but ended up getting something doubtlessly worse.

  2. Wow, amazing quote!

    It reminds me of this quote, which is also about pure joy:

    “There is an ecstasy that marks the summit of life, and beyond which life cannot rise. And such is the paradox of living, this ecstasy comes when one is most alive, and it comes as a complete forgetfulness that one is alive. This ecstasy, this forgetfulness of living, comes to the artist, caught up and out of himself in a sheet of flame; it comes to the soldier, war-mad on a stricken field and refusing quarter; and it came to Buck, leading the pack, sounding the old wolf-cry, straining after the food that was alive and that fled swiftly before him through the moonlight. He was sounding the deeps of his nature, and of the parts of his nature that were deeper than he, going back into the womb of Time. He was mastered by the sheer surging of life, the tidal wave of being, the perfect joy of each separate muscle, joint, and sinew and that it was everything that was not death, that it was aglow and rampant, expressing itself in movement, flying exultantly under the stars and over the face of dead matter that did not move.”

  3. Brasyl y River of Gods-
    both are incredible.

    The dude is a fat white english guy- how does he do so well with India and Brazil?

    I recommend reading River of Gods back to back with Sacred Games, by Vikram Chandra, to be hit on the head with India, past, present, and, most of all, future.

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