Sacco and Vanzetti Must Die!

Make text smaller Make text larger

Written by Mark Binelli

The guilt or innocence of Bartolomeo Sacco and Nicola Vanzetti, the pro-labor, antiwar Italian immigrants charged with murder during the xenophobic 1920s, was never proven. What is certain is that little about their trial went in their favor—definitely not their failed, last ditch attempt to have their execution stayed. Mark Binelli’s debut novel, Sacco and Vanzetti Must Die!, is mostly “not their story.” Instead, the pair are fodder for a dutifully chronicled, archived and analyzed faux-ography. Binelli, a contributing editor for Rolling Stone, starts with the real story and then goes all ersatz, creating a comedic team of knife-juggling film stars who leave no pie unthrown.

Their story is told via their entire fake filmic oeuvre (Two Wops in a Jam, Mars Needs Sacco and Vanzetti, A Couple of Cut-Ups, etc.) as they fend off, for starters: a woozy stolen kangaroo, a bee-bearded “Chinaman” and women executioners in bikini armor on Mars. Phony film chapters are mixed with fake Woody Allen-esque exegeses. And if that wasn’t enough, the scarily clever Binelli fashions phony “Historic Interludes”—alternate histories less plausible than they are pleasing (for example, Bob Hope is hogtied, gagged and most painfully (for him), ignored).

The whole shticky exercise sometimes seems carried out a hair longer than necessary, but it more than earns its keep. The fictional Sacco and Vanzetti begin to hew closely enough to their inspiration that the send up of yesterday’s insularity and assorted prejudices demonstrates today’s in clear and unfunny relief. 

Make text smaller Make text larger




Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required
Neighborhood Newsletters