Wolcott Gets His Nuggets


October 22, 2013 by admin

“At some other show before then — CBGB maybe? — I remember [Wolcott] dismissively mentioning that publishers were already sounding him out about collecting his pieces. I have no idea why he apparently thought that was ridiculous; the green river of envy coursing through me had already knocked down houses and drowned cows. He wasn’t even thirty yet! If you want a measure of how quickly (and deservedly) Wolcott went electric, all I can say is that, when I succeeded him as the Voice’s TV reviewer — neither the first nor last time I’ve had to vacuum his pixie dust out of my five-and-dime peruke — nobody battered down the door for an anthology of my nuggets.”

– Tom Carson gets personal in a review of James Wolcott’s new collection, Critical Mass. (I’m curious to know if the collection includes Wolcott’s 1987 Vanity Fair piece on “the Noise Boys”?) FWIW, Carson speaks to (or maybe I should say around?) his relationship with Wolcott in his 2002 rockcritics interview. (Also FWIW — clearly not much — I personally put Carson on a higher plane than Wolcott as a stylist, for sure, though I confess I’m barely at all familiar with any of Wolcott’s early Voice scribblings, which I’m anxious to read.)

2 thoughts on “Wolcott Gets His Nuggets

  1. Steven Ward says:

    Can’t wait to get this. I worship Wolcott. Yep. The Noise Boys piece is in there according to the table of contents.

  2. sw00ds says:

    I know you’re a big fan, Steven. I’m an extremely critical fan at best, though again, I’m not as well-versed as I probably should be. I enjoyed most of Lucking Out (loved what he wrote about Talking Heads and thought the stuff he wrote about Bangs should’ve received more attention, as it fleshed him out in new and interesting ways), and the actual rock criticism I’ve read by him in Creem and Rolling Stone (reviews of Another Green World and Metal Machine Music come to mind) is solid and interesting. The Vanity Fair columns I’ve read I’ve mostly enjoyed, though his “Noise Boys” piece, while pulling off some excellent lines re: Bangs and Meltzer, bugs me a bit because he’s so blithe in his dismissal of rock criticism circa 1987 without ever really delving into what he thinks is so problematic about it (I recall that he dismisses Chuck Eddy, Greg Tate, and RJ Smith in a single sentence as mere imitators to the Bangs throne) (and purely as a critique, his essay pales next to Kogan’s early issues of Why Rock Criticism Sucks, better known to its millions of readers as Why Music Sucks). Also, I find it problematic that you get no sense from that essay whatsoever that he himself ever had a damn thing to do with rock criticism, which feels somewhat disingenuous to me (obviously, by the time he’s writing the piece, he *didn’t* have anything more to do with music writing, so… I don’t know, fair enough perhaps, maybe I’m barking up the wrong tree. Still, something felt a bit off about that critique to me, though I look forward to reading it again in this new context).

    One thing that clouds my judgement of Wolcott a little… no, not Greil Marcus (who hates him), honest, but his blog. I really don’t like Wolcott’s blog at all; there’s just a level of sarcasm there I have difficulty reading past, and I’m hardly immune to sarcasm (um, Frank Zappa, for christ’s sake??).

    I’m mostly looking forward to reading his old TV columns from the Voice.

    (Jeez, I didn’t even go into the Kael stuff here. Not that I have anything remotely interesting to say about it, probably.)

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