“This portrait of a critic as a young man is also a rollicking, acutely observant portrait of a legendary time and place. Wolcott was taken up by fabled film critic Pauline Kael as one of her ‘Paulettes’ and witnessed the immensely vital film culture of the period. He became an early observer-participant in the nascent punk scene at CBGB, mixing with Patti Smith, Lester Bangs, and Tom Verlaine. As a Village Voice writer he got an eyeful of the literary scene when such giants as Mailer, Gore Vidal, and George Plimpton strode the earth, and writing really mattered.”
I’ve always gone back and forth with Wolcott’s writing, but this sounds like a must-read, a dishy account of New York at its critic-centric peak. The fact that Bangs is mentioned in this blurb gives me hope that Wolcott will write about his rock-critical life along with everything else, and — if we’re lucky — expound on why he got off the rock-writing boat entirely. In ’87, Wolcott penned his infamous “Noise Boys” piece* in
Esquire Vanity Fair, which simultaneously celebrated the release of Bangs’s Psychotic Reactions and the re-release of Meltzer’s Aesthetics of Rock, while pronouncing the then-playing field as an “empty joyless din.” It’s an interesting piece I disagree with lots. To my knowledge, Wolcott has never entered in the conversation since (I believe he actually dropped out of writing about music long before then). I’ve always been kind of curious as to why.
* A bunch of excerpts available here.