Marcus in Conversation Reviewed

Greg Cwik in PopMatters is less wowed by Marcus the conversationalist than by Marcus the writer:

“Marcus talks about his initial involvement with FSM [Free Speech Movement], his waning interest, and, as seen above, his eventual disillusion, but none of this is told fervidly. It’s maybe the most revealing of the interviews in the collection, though it sometimes drags. Seeing Marcus in the context of the FSM illuminates bits of his personal history that have been mostly veiled in shadow. Kitchell asks about Marcus’ personal thesis on the struggle of criticism, but Marcus never answers the question, and the interview ends with, ‘Yeah, it’s fun to talk…’ [Ellipsis his.]”


3 thoughts on “Marcus in Conversation Reviewed

  1. In Cwik’s take on the book (and on Kael and Bangs), he does a pretty good job of explaining how Marcus’ work differs from those others. What he doesn’t do is convince me that there is anything other than taste preferences at work: he prefers the more free-swinging prose of Kael and Bangs to the more precise writing of Marcus, and faults Marcus essentially for not being Pauline or Lester. Cwik’s frustration is understandable, but when he complains that Marcus-in-interviews doesn’t reveal enough about Marcus-the-person, he’s asking for something that is unlikely to occur. It’s not the fault of Marcus if he doesn’t meet Cwik’s expectations.

  2. I agree. The comparison between the three is interesting insofar as it sheds a bit of light on what each critic does differently, but faulting Marcus for not being more like Bangs is like faulting the Drifters for not being more like the Stooges. (It’s also why I’ve come to hate that cliché about how certain music critics apparently write in a way that “captures the spirit of the music itself.” Fine, but what music are they capturing? Stooges? Drifters? Madonna? Beach Boys? It’s like the Stooges/wildman aesthetic has been unofficially deemed The Mode.)

  3. In the book Marcus talks in several places about his antipathy to autobiographical criticism, and about his own disinclination toward writing autobiographically. I think that Cwik was looking for a different book. Or subject.

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