I’m a sucker for books about New York City. Especially books that explore the life and times of punks or beatniks, either in the present or the past. Thus, 131 Different Things was right up my alley. Author Zachary Lipz writes about Sam, a bartender at a dive on the Lower East Side, who discovers his former love, Vicki, is back in the city. He looks for a possibility to connect with her, but first he has to find her.
Throughout one long night, Sam and his friend Francis seek out Vicki at gay bars, nightclubs, and dominatrix joints throughout Manhattan, but keep coming up short. Along the way they’re fueled by alcohol and drugs, pizza, and brawling. There are lots of music (and punk) references, whether it’s to Black Flag or the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
The reason I’m a sucker for books about NYC is because I believe in it as a city of possibilities. You can watch your favorite musician play at a dive bar, get hit on by a bartender, see someone step in vomit on the subway, and fall in love. And 131 Different Things definitely displays the sentiment that anything is possible. With every bar that Sam and Francis go to, something unexpected occurs.
Interspersed throughout the book are color photos taken by Nick Zinner of Yeah Yeah Yeahs. They accent the action to some degree, but don’t directly relate to it. They primarily show people in party situations or just being weird. Some pictures are of dogs, others of musicians. While I didn’t think them to be necessary to the story, I did like how they broke things up. Yet, they would’ve been better if interspersed more through the story instead of in blocks at the end of each chapter.
The book is also designed by Stacy Wakefield. These three—Wakefield, Zinner, and Lipz—are frequent collaborators. Their experience with one another shows, as they make the complete package tie together well.
On the whole, I very much enjoyed 131 Different Things, primarily because I like books about NYC and punk and people trying to find someone or something and seeing the adventure that happens along the way. This book provided all of that. Still, I can’t help but think it could’ve sufficed just as well if it had been tucked together as a small paperback novella. As it stands, thirty dollars seems a lot for a book that is good, but not great. –Kurt Morris (Akashic, 232 Third St., Suite A115, Brooklyn, NY 11215)