Cursed In Cairo By Chris Clavin, 224 pgs.

Most of us have a dream about starting a small community of our own, away from scene politics and the well-beaten paths of a familiar place. This first-hand account from Chris Clavin tells the story of a very small group of determined people who attempt to build their own community from scratch. Chris Clavin is probably best known for his involvement with Plan-It-X Records and a variety of folk-punk bands from central Indiana. In 2010, he convinced a few of his friends (and a few strangers) to move to Cairo, Ill. to create a punk utopia in a blighted, forgotten river town. He buys a huge, dilapidated building, which becomes their home. The ground floor is transformed into the Ace Of Cups, a coffee shop and ad-hoc community center. It seems too good to be true and as the name of the book will tell you, things pretty much go downhill from there.In turns hilarious, strange, and heartbreaking, the account is organized by months and reads like a diary. The piece  follows explorations of what’s left of the town and encounters with the people who live there. The building has a mind of its own and nature is slowly reclaiming crumbling buildings left and right, but Clavin refrains from romanticizing Cairo’s urban decay. The punks and townies reach an uneasy peace, though they don’t seem to reach a true understanding of each other’s motives for being there.Having lived in my share of shitty, small towns and run-down neighborhoods, I could relate to the routine problems of surviving in a place without a real grocery store or a laundromat, and the quiet frustration resulting from being deprived of social opportunities. In plain language, this book recounts the reality of ghost-town life and shows how capitalism has truly and irreparably failed middle America. Despite the city’s curse and Clavin’s quixotic quest for punk paradise, this book reveals much about the power of hope and idealism and the harshness of reality when it comes to crash the party. –Cheyenne Neckmonster (Secret Sailor Press, PO Box 2312, Bloomington, IN 47402)