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Air Guitar: Essays on Art & Democracy Paperback – August 2, 1997


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Frequently Bought Together

Air Guitar: Essays on Art & Democracy + The Invisible Dragon: Essays on Beauty, Revised and Expanded + Dave Hickey: Pirates and Farmers: Essays on Taste
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Art Issues Press; 1st edition (August 2, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0963726455
  • ISBN-13: 978-0963726452
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #69,862 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Dave Hickey's twenty-three "love songs," which make up Air Guitar, fly off the page to offer the reader a vista beyond the wasteland. In Hickey's "vast, invisible underground empire" of pleasure--record stores, honky-tonks, hot-rod shops, art galleries, jazz clubs, cocktail lounges, surf shops and the like--joy abounds and truth speaks. -- The Nation, Margaret Juhae Lee

Finally obliged to theorize his impolite tastes, judgments and ideas, Hickey lays his prejudices a little barer than altogether becomes them. Even caught in that old trap, however, he's as good as it gets, starting with his prose. Although his diction is often highfalutin (he was doing a doctoral thesis about Foucault and Derrida way back in 1967), his rhythms aren't, and he's more than fluent in colloquial English--I mean, the guy can flat-out write. -- Los Angeles Times Sunday Book Review, Robert Christgau

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Customer Reviews

Very interesting essays.
t ellerbrock
Dave Hickey is perhaps the most potent, relevant and eloquent cultural critic in the US.
Santiago Toca
Overall, it's the kind of book you enjoy to read.
Michael A. Oleary

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By G. Scranton on September 27, 1999
Format: Paperback
Dave Hickey, cuts loose and speaks to the reader in vibrant tones and tempos in his collection of essays on life,drugs,art, and an ideal democracy. Be it a recollection of his childhood growing up with Jazz and joints, his academic years, with Brakhage and Warhol flicks, or his "dealing" days trading a piece of paper with a signature on it for another, Hickey somehow relates the residue of everyday life to Art and Democracy. At times his seductive writing can become so subconciously numbing, that one may want to pinch themselves once in a while to make sure they are not simply ingesting his information as fact...yes his writing is that good, but beware, and be critical!
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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful By John Michael Albert on May 15, 2005
Format: Paperback
"Air Guitar" is Hickey's characterization of critical writing, it's direct relationship to its subject(s) being of approximately equal import as a person playing air guitar in his living room is to a rock concert. In the words of Vladimir Horowitz, the concert pianist, it is "the words without the music." That being said, it's damned interesting, all the same, especially when approached this way. Hickey's favorite technique is to take two seemingly disparate things and to discuss the way in which they inform each other, all the while examining the net effect on his life as your basic, educated, ambitious Joe trying to fill the "great gap of time" between birth and death with a mind boggling array of interesting experiences. In this way, they're more 'think pieces' than academic essays. I'll admit, there were moments when my brain hurt; but most of the time, I was enjoying his company and his facility for mental gymnastics -- and the obvious pleasure he took in it personally. I heard of this book on a radio interview (Fresh Air? Diane Rehm Show?) and bought it specifically so that I could have my own personal copy of "My Weimar" -- a spectacular, 'where am I in the grand sceme of things now' type touchstone. Reading the whole book as a part of a recent essay jag, I found it all equally challenging, equally enjoyable.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 27, 1998
Format: Paperback
This book is a collection of essays which demonstrate how art functions in American society on a day to day, experience to experience way. Each essay is written in a conversational tone, as to invite the reader into the story through personnal experience and avoid the frequent erudite, elitist, and exclusionist text commonly associated with art theory. Each story is easy to relate to and encourages one to think about everyday incidences as a form of art and its relation to formal art. This book represents the thoughts of an artist both in what it says and how it says it. It is a thoroughly enjoyable read and educational tool for artists.
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful By dutch oven on July 26, 2004
Format: Paperback
OK, granted, this is this first thing I've read by Dave Hickey, so I may not be giving his overall legacy a fair review. I know he's been around for awhile and has made numerous contributions to many top-notch magazines and journals. This book was recommended to me by a guy in a Williamsburg bookshop, and despite the pretentious accusation of 'genius' slapped on the front cover, I glanced through the book (spotting some obviously great writing) and bought it on the spot.
I was really taken by his unabashed, intimate style for several chapters of the book, until he began his defenses of art dealing and art criticism and his pompous attacks on 'spectators' versus 'participants' (are critics participants?) in his version of the art world. Sorry Dave, this doesn't wash and you know it --- simply announcing that 'Art is not a commodity' simplifies a huge can of worms best dealt with by Debord or even Hakim Bey, not by an art dealer aspiring to belong to this community, rather than getting dirty in the spectating and profiteering himself. When I hit the end of a couple of these verbose defenses of his history of 'dirty occupations', I was left thinking, 'Is it that important you were an art dealer?', or 'Who really cares that you're an art critic?'.
I simply want to be regaled with tales of Sigfried and Roy, or stomp in the boots of Hank Williams, or read Dave's ridiculous opinions on Chet Baker and, most importantly, laugh (or even smile out loud). This is where he is at his best, and consequently where the book shines. It is great writing, indeed, but too bad Dave feels it's necessary to namedrop and pontificate to purge himself from the sea of soulless art critics. Just do what you do best, and write!
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 26, 2000
Format: Paperback
I to was assigned to read this for a college course and picked up the book with the usual lack of excitement that goes along with reading an assigned text. I was surprised to find myself half-way through the book in one night and having to make myself put it down to continue on with other assignments. The author vividly describes scenes from life in a way that takes you on a journey into someone else's life. You can hear the saxaphones, smell the cigarette smoke, touch the flowers...it's really unbelievable the way the author picks you up and takes you away. It's also nice to have a book of short essays...great for people who get bored easily and enjoy a change of subject and scene. The book sets up a new image and feeling with each essay. You never find yourself stuck on the same topic or bored with the content. The book keeps you moving and thinking from start to finish. Loved it.
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