Wolcott memoir (mostly) raves

  • Review by A.G. in The Economist: “Every page is a party. Open to any chapter and the capitalised names pop out (Pauline Kael! Robert Christgau! Patti Smith!). Mr Wolcott arrived in New York in 1972 — “just as everything was going to hell” — to work at the Village Voice on the recommendation of Norman Mailer (he had written an article about Mailer for his college newspaper). It was then a city of ‘crappy expectations that didn’t require a trust fund or a six-figure income for the privilege of watching everything fall apart before your eyes.'”
  • Brendan Bernhard, East Village: “If Mr. Wolcott traces the rise and fall of CBGB with the sure hand of a master, he is less convincing when analyzing the intellectual status of his own generation of downtown critics. Willis, Goldstein, and Christgau had ‘the brains, the ambition, the range and grasp to inherit the big desks in the editorial offices and give culture its marching orders,’ but they never did. Well, thank God they didn’t is one’s first reaction, and the second (having read these people) is, ‘Really?'”
  • Michaelangelo Matos in the A.V. Club: “He describes the (Voice) office’s many characters with a warm eye (‘Nat Hentoff… always enjoyed having a First Amendment case to warm his hands over’), but when Kael sweeps him under her wing, the book hits its most romantic pitch. (That, and when he discovers ballet late in the decade.)”
  • “James Wolcott, wise dildo” in the Daily Caller: “This is someone with talent and imagination to burn; sometimes it seems like Wolcott swallowed a Power Verbs book. After experiencing the charge of his prose, it’s almost impossible to go back to the gray stylings of lesser men — the weak Hunter Thompson imitation of Matt Taibbi, the hack righteousness of E.J. Dionne, the convoluted banshee wails of Andrew Sullivan.” (Heh, politicize much, Daily Caller dude?)
  • Choire Sicha sizes the book up at BookForum: “The most interesting subject here is not so much nostalgia — which Wolcott wisely disavows — or the ’70s as a ‘thing,’ but rather the raw human-on-human quality of the day’s critical discourse (as more highfalutin types would later brand it): literary stabbings, accidental slaggings-off, and lingering meannesses as practiced in the small town that is New York. Vain little red-butted monkeys, most of them overzealous typers, but also thinking people: people with an audience and people of an audience.” (“People”? What’s that?)
  • Staying Alive: With A New Memoir On The Shelf, James Wolcott Discusses The Writing Life (New York Observer): “You have to remember that you always write for readers… Most people, their idea of a reader is not even a person, it’s like their expectation of what this piece will do for them… You have to realize that if you don’t make something clear, if you don’t make something interesting, they will abandon it in the second paragraph.”

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