A vital chronicler of rock’s story, several decades on.

IS IT STILL GOOD TO YA?

FIFTY YEARS OF ROCK CRITICISM, 1967-2017

A robust compendium of work by the “Dean” of rock criticism.

Christgau (Going into the City: Portrait of the Critic as a Young Man, 2015, etc.) positions his familiar critical voice to take the long view regarding his lifelong dialogue with music and youth culture, noting, “one does become more weathered as one ages, which is quite different from knowing that getting weathered is in the cards.” Thus, the book is organized into sections that broadly reflect developmental stages over a century of American pop as well as his own maturing perspective—e.g., “A Great Tradition,” “Postmodern Times,” and “Got to Be Driftin’ Along.” The most powerful selections appear first, in “History in the Making.” These longer essays, which deal with the social underpinnings of popular music and the strange machinations of the music business, include a prescient report on the long-term prospects of British punk, published in 1978 in the Village Voice: “I consider their hostility healthy, especially given how much they’ve been maligned.” Later, the author immerses himself in malaise-filled 1990s spectacles like Woodstock ’94 and Lollapalooza, noting that at earlier festivals, “going for the music meant going for the culture in a way it no longer can.” Otherwise, Christgau remains focused on the output of specific artists. This often entails discussions of significant creators he considers misunderstood, including remembrances of (among others) Chuck Berry and Prince, “the most gifted artist of the rock era.” Other rock personages to receive in-depth consideration in multiple pieces include Sonic Youth, Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin, M.I.A., and the Ramones (“they did conquer the world, if changing rock and roll utterly counts”). At a moment when music criticism seems less empowered for being more fragmented, Christgau still offers an informed, authoritative perspective, self-aware regarding cultural aging and mortality, not stodgy but wry.

A vital chronicler of rock’s story, several decades on.

Pub Date: Oct. 26, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4780-0022-8

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Duke Univ.

Review Posted Online: July 30, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

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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DEAR MR. HENSHAW

Possibly inspired by the letters Cleary has received as a children's author, this begins with second-grader Leigh Botts' misspelled fan letter to Mr. Henshaw, whose fictitious book itself derives from the old take-off title Forty Ways W. Amuse a Dog. Soon Leigh is in sixth grade and bombarding his still-favorite author with a list of questions to be answered and returned by "next Friday," the day his author report is due. Leigh is disgruntled when Mr. Henshaw's answer comes late, and accompanied by a set of questions for Leigh to answer. He threatens not to, but as "Mom keeps nagging me about your dumb old questions" he finally gets the job done—and through his answers Mr. Henshaw and readers learn that Leigh considers himself "the mediumest boy in school," that his parents have split up, and that he dreams of his truck-driver dad driving him to school "hauling a forty-foot reefer, which would make his outfit add up to eighteen wheels altogether. . . . I guess I wouldn't seem so medium then." Soon Mr. Henshaw recommends keeping a diary (at least partly to get Leigh off his own back) and so the real letters to Mr. Henshaw taper off, with "pretend," unmailed letters (the diary) taking over. . . until Leigh can write "I don't have to pretend to write to Mr. Henshaw anymore. I have learned to say what I think on a piece of paper." Meanwhile Mr. Henshaw offers writing tips, and Leigh, struggling with a story for a school contest, concludes "I think you're right. Maybe I am not ready to write a story." Instead he writes a "true story" about a truck haul with his father in Leigh's real past, and this wins praise from "a real live author" Leigh meets through the school program. Mr. Henshaw has also advised that "a character in a story should solve a problem or change in some way," a standard juvenile-fiction dictum which Cleary herself applies modestly by having Leigh solve his disappearing lunch problem with a burglar-alarmed lunch box—and, more seriously, come to recognize and accept that his father can't be counted on. All of this, in Leigh's simple words, is capably and unobtrusively structured as well as valid and realistic. From the writing tips to the divorced-kid blues, however, it tends to substitute prevailing wisdom for the little jolts of recognition that made the Ramona books so rewarding.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 1983

ISBN: 143511096X

Page Count: 133

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1983

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