These sprightly, highly opinionated “adventures of an autodidact” reveal Christgau to be a highly literate, astute, and...



A culture critic roams far and wide.

Veteran music critic Christgau (Is it Still Good to Ya?: Fifty Years of Rock Criticism, 2018, etc.) writes that he discovered his future profession when he read the journalism of Red Smith, Pauline Kael, Tom Wolfe, and Susan Sontag. This substantial collection of nearly 100 eclectic, thought-provoking, and idea-laden book reviews were published in a wide range of publications, many in the Village Voice (where he was a writer and editor from 1969 to 2006) and the Barnes & Noble Review. Christgau writes that they “dive deeper” into two broad themes, bohemia and politics. His range of topics is impressive, and his references are prolific. Unsurprisingly, many of the books reviewed are music-related, but Christgau is just as adept delving into capitalism, pornography, and literature. He begins with three reviews of books by “master stylists,” aka the “Collectibles.” John Leonard is a “small treasure,” Jonathan Lethem is a “hell of a critic,” and the “best of all,” Dave Hickey, has “been doing work that leaves your own flopping around on the deck.” One of the longest and best pieces is an outstanding overview of the “lumpily indefatigable” Raymond Williams. Christgau calls him a “socialist intellectual” with an “appetite for knowledge.” Another highlight is “A Darker Shade of Noir,” an incisive and wide-ranging assessment of Walter Mosley’s Easy Rawlins novels. Christgau makes a good case for why these “historically evolving books constitute the finest detective oeuvre in American literature, surpassing even that of card-carrying formalist Hammett and dwarfing Chandler and Leonard and Macdonald.” Other literary figures Christgau admires include Robert Coover, Michael Chabon (“language dazzling and deft”), and Roddy Doyle. There are also savvy assessments of autobiographies by Rod Stewart, Bruce Springsteen, and Patti Smith, whose M Train, writes the author, “transported me.”

These sprightly, highly opinionated “adventures of an autodidact” reveal Christgau to be a highly literate, astute, and discerning book critic.

Pub Date: April 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4780-0030-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Duke Univ.

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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