Good Times Weekly talks to Gillian and Legs about Please Kill Me

via Good Times Weekly

As they prep the 20th anniversary edition of their punk history ‘Please Kill Me,’ Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain look back at how the groundbreaking oral history changed not just the publishing industry, but also the way we tell stories.

In much the same way that punk was a musical revolution, the definitive book about punk was a literary one. With its modernization of the oral history tradition—telling its 424-page story entirely in a string of quotes that form a solid, winding narrative—it’s practically impossible to overstate the degree to which Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk revolutionized both the book industry and the way we think about storytelling when it was published in 1996.


Despite its gritty, grimy subject matter (or, more accurately, because of it), Please Kill Me was sublimely elegant in the way it matched form to content. Finally, here was a book about punk that reflected the actual spirit of the movement by representing its subjects’ words as directly as possible, with a minimum of filters or interference from the authors. It took nonfiction back to its primal urges.

PKM Paperback Cover 144x216Perhaps the book’s mix of iconoclasm and literary ambition makes sense considering it was co-authored by two writers with very different backgrounds, but a surprising like-mindedness. One, Legs McNeil, is the man some credit with giving punk music its name in the first place, when he christened Punk magazine in 1975. He started it with cartoonist John Holmstrom and publisher Ged Dunn, providing the fledgling New York scene led by the Ramones, Patti Smith and Richard Hell (and eventually also British bands like the Sex Pistols) with a unifying concept. His co-author, Gillian McCain, was the program coordinator of the Poetry Project at St. Mark’s Church—famed for its connections to Smith, Jim Carroll, William Burroughs and other punk poets beginning in the 1970s—from 1991 to 1995, roughly the same time that they worked on Please Kill Me.


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