Book Review: “The Hard Stuff: Dope, Crime, the MC5 and My Life of Impossibilities” By: Wayne Kramer

“The Hard Stuff: Dope, Crime, the MC5 and My Life of Impossibilities”
Author: Wayne Kramer
Da Capo
Hardcover: 311 pages

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

“The Hard Stuff: Dope, Crime, the MC5 and My Life of Impossibilities” is the story of legendary guitarist Wayne Kramer. From his childhood in Detroit where he found inspiration from the likes Chuck Berry and the Rolling Stones to his pursuit of “avant rock” with his group the MC5. Released via Da Capo Press “The Hard Stuff” is a 311 page biography recounting a life of rock and roll excess to prison confinement making all stops in between and any there-after.

As gritty as the ground breaking groups music “The Hard Stuff: Dope, Crime, the MC5 and My Life of Impossibilities” is a brutally honest, in-depth look at M5 founding member Wayne Kramer’s life. Told by the man himself Kramer recounts his upbringing in a home with an abusive stepfather and how he channeled his inner frustrations about the world around him into some of the MC5’s most notable material. Though I found the chapters recounting his time with the band the following chapters after the group disbanding was where my attention was really held. Kramer painstakingly tells of his time in prison after a drug bust and the years after in which he struggled with addiction up through reconnecting with his biological father.

“The Hard Stuff” is a roller coaster ride of emotion that keeps the reader interested and turning the pages. Not many people (if any) have had a life like Wayne Kramer and this book makes that abundantly clear. You don’t need to be a fan of Kramer’s music to enjoy this book as the author speaks his truth and does not shy away from darker periods of his life or difficult subject matter. For those hoping to catch the MC5 on the 50th anniversary tour this is the perfect foundation to help connect or reconnect with one of rock music’s most influential artists/groups.

Penn’s Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff and Social Issues

Sean Penn has recently opted out of the movie business, and he has decided to take on a new world of artistic expression: novel writing. His first novel has recently come out, and there is much being said about the content between the pages. While this is his first novel, it’s not his first writing project. In fact, he has published several other opinions pieces, and during his younger days, he worked as a war correspondent. He has recently put his other work aside to pen his novel titled “Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff.”

The novel is known for the hilarious writing with a dystopian type setting, featuring a man that works as a septic-tank salesman with an undercover side job as a contract killer for the government sector in the U.S. Critics have already jumped on board, telling Penn not to quit his day job for writing, and he has been criticized for much of the content of the book. However, people are starting to realize that Bob Honey is just a character and not Penn himself.

Sean Penn recently went on a book tour where he discussed his book with many different people around the country. During his Bob Honey book tour, Penn was asked how it felt to be a novelist, and he discussed the comparison of feelings from finishing a book and finishing a screenplay. He has even hinted at writing another book, saying he has a few ideas up his sleeves. One interesting fact about “Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff” is that Penn wrote the entire novel by dictation as opposed to typing away on a keyboard or typewriter, which is an interesting and unconventional way to write a book, much different than other writers out there.

Social Issues

This book, written by Sean Penn, is not just a book of dystopian context, but it is also riddled with social issues that are being brought to light in the pages of the novel. For one, Penn makes several references to the residing president as well as references to other non-political people. He uses a powerful prose writing style to get his message across, and unless the reader looks deeply, they will never see the in-depth references mentioned between the covers of this novel.

However, with a little digging, the reader can easily see which of the social issues he most cares about like civil conflicts, mass shootings, anger, and even the use of Scientology. Among the social issues most mentioned, Bob Honey seems to focus quite a bit on humanitarianism. Sean Penn helped with the cleanup efforts after the major earthquake in Hatti in 2010, and he even helped with the efforts after the 2005 Hurricane Katrina storm. He wanted his character to be the same humanitarian that Penn himself is on a daily basis.

The Violence

A major thing deal with in this novel is the issue of violence. The main character tends to be one that stands up to the bullies and ends up changing the idea of bullying altogether at the end. However, there is also some issues of violence where the protagonist deals with these issues. There is much concern for the violent nature of the country that Penn mentions several times throughout the novel.

Conclusion

There is much to be said about Sean Penn’s new novel, and while he seems to be putting away the movie business for a bit, his novel has been met with criticism and positive thoughts at the same time. In a way, he is just like every writer ever, and he has used his novel as a way to express his ideas on social issues between the covers.