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. 21, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019



This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996




An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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