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Brooklyn Voices: A Literary Series at St. Joseph's College

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Joe Bonomo

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High Stakes Criticism: An Interview with Greil Marcus

Conversations with Maurice Literary Conversations Series Peter C. Kunze Editor Kapsis Editor Conversations with Colson Literary Conversations Series Derek C. Maus Editor Conversations with Jim Marcus turned seventy this summer. He is writing more books, and more quickly, than ever, with seven new titles in half a decade, each burnishing his reputation as one of the great pop-culture essayists. He has shaped previously published work into five essay collections over the years, and his short volumes on Van Morrison and the Doors are essentially essay-styled monographs.

Conversations with Derek Walcott Literary Conversations Series

Two recent titles extend this reputation. But this, too, is typical of Marcus.

Myths and Depths: Greil Marcus talks to Simon Reynolds (Part 4) - Los Angeles Review of Books

He has always tended to prefer negation and rebellion over affirmation and unity, the weird over the ordinary, the complex above the simple, the seemingly unprecedented in favor of the well-worn. In this approach, certain types of art and emotion—namely those deemed challenging or dark—are more worthy of attention than others every bit as universal and necessary but better described as fun or bright. Marcus bets too little, sometimes, on objects that are actually much larger than they appear.

Modelled on radio countdowns and film-critic polls, and sweated over by all-in rock-and-roll fans debating what matters most about the music, The List is a rock-crit staple in part because it so readily embodies an aesthetic. The List is an essay in enumerated disguise.

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But then The List can be loose and brash like that, free-swinging and subjective not to say arbitrary , and comes with playfulness practically built in. Even so, The List does require a discussion of premises and criteria to work best, and also close listening, a sense of history, and a coherent point of view.

This is the sort of listing at which Marcus has excelled.