The Humorless Ladies of Border Control
Touring the Punk Underground from Belgrade to Ulaanbaataar
The New Press 2016
New Books in Arts & LettersNew Books in Eastern European StudiesNew Books in MusicNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in Popular CultureNew Books in Russian and Eurasian StudiesNew Books Network July 12, 2017 Richard Schur
What is the punk music scene like in Croatia, Serbia, Hungary, Russia, Ukraine, or Mongolia? Who listens to punk in Eastern Europe and in the Balkans? What kind of venues host punk shows?
Punk musician and writer Franz Nicolay explores these questions and much more in his Humorless Ladies of Border Control: Touring the Punk Underground from Belgrade to Ulaanbaatar(The New Press, 2016). The book chronicles his various tours through Eastern Europe between May 2012 and July 2014. Traveling by himself in a rental car or by train with his wife, Nicolay explores cities and towns with small but devoted punk scenes and describes what he sees in Soviet post-industrial towns. Along the way, he learns what Russian punks think about the Pussy Riot controversy and he experiences first-hand political turmoil in the Ukraine.
Blending travel memoir, cultural criticism, and popular music studies, Nicolay’s writing explores the life of a touring musician, the people that they encounter on tour, and his response to what he sees and experiences. The resulting book is insightful, funny, and essential for anyone who wants to learn more about punk in Eastern Europe and the life of a touring musician.
Franz Nicolay is a New York musician, who has played with many acts, such as the Hold Steady, Against Me!, and the Dresden Dolls. He is a writer whose work appears at Slate.com and in the New York Times and teaches courses at Bard College. Fans can buy his music, explore his writing, and learn about his performances at his website.
Richard Schur, professor of English at Drury University, is the host for this podcast episode.