Sunday, February 28, 2016

Book: Greil Marcus - Real Life Rock: The Complete Top Ten Columns, 1986-2014 (Yale University Press, 2015)

Greil Marcus is a rock 'n' roll critic whose published writing goes back to the mid 1970's. This book (dedicated to Sleater-Kinney and the Mekons!) is a collection of his "Real Life Rock Top 10" columns that appeared in a number of publications from The Village Voice to Artforum, and currently at the Barnes and Noble website. Each column is a list of ten short entries, mostly about music, but many about cinema, art, and culture in general. Marcus is an astute critic, and much of his music writing is thoughtful, witty and insightful. Since I not much of an aesthete, much of the art criticism is well beyond my ken, and I tended to just to skim those entries. His enthusiasm for certain musical artists like the aforementioned S-K & Mekons whose music I love was a joy to read. Curiously though, was his hatred for roots rock musician Lucinda Williams. I have no idea what Williams did to wrong Marcus, but he did not miss any opportunity to criticize her. Instead of simply ignoring her, he attacks her albums, her appearances on tribute albums and her interviews with almost pathological rage. This is a long and deep book, not one that you'll read cover to cover in a concentrated burst, but one you'll dip into over time, reading a few entries at a time and checking the index to see what he may have thought of your favorite artist. It's a blast for the rock 'n' roll fan (there's some blues, but precious little jazz) to read and fodder for (hopefully) good-natured banter about his choices and yours. Real Life Rock: The Complete Top Ten Columns, 1986-2014

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