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Critical Mass: Four Decades of Essays, Reviews, Hand Grenades, and Hurrahs by [Wolcott, James]
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Critical Mass: Four Decades of Essays, Reviews, Hand Grenades, and Hurrahs Kindle Edition

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Length: 514 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In essays previously published in the 1990s and 2000s, Vanity Fair culture critic Wolcott (Lucking Out) fires off acerbic surveys of cultural fads and preoccupations, taking a special interest in punk rock, film noir, comedy, and the literary canon of Great White Males. The aesthetic that binds the volume is what the author succinctly calls the writing I'm proudest of, happiest with, the pieces that carry a lift. Of the school of hard-throwing criticism, distinct from snack-dip entertainment reporting and the nut-gathering of squirrel-scholars, Wolcott wields the same powers he admires in his subjects: intelligence, wit, style, and a prodigious range of reading, with an eye for the succinct, telling detail. Wolcott, quoting novelist Kingsley Amis, says, Importance isn't important. Only good writing is. Wolcott's prose is agile, alert, kinetic; the sentences swing and hustle, cratered with barbed metaphor. Wolcott has few idols and no saints; he deplores shoddy technique, gooey sentiment, platitudes and punditry, and takes the occasional goofy jab at himself. Forthright and fair-minded, but ferocious in disdain, with the sly, smart voice of someone in the know but never caught up in the moment, this collection might be an uncoated pill, but it preserves an unforgettable specimen of that New York specialty—the well-informed wise guy. Agent: Elyse Cheney, Elyse Cheney Literary Associates. (Oct.)

From Booklist

Critic Wolcott follows his rapier memoir, Lucking Out (2011), with a mammoth retrospective essay and review collection. A writer of mettle and skill zestfully committed to critical journalism, Wolcott pairs probing opinion with vigorous yet concrete language and pushes so far beyond the bland that his reviews, even decades later, are fiery and daring. At times prescient, as in his 1975 recognition of Patti Smith’s mustang power, he is also neatly funny. Pauline Kael was his mentor, Dorothy Parker a precursor, Susan Sontag a goad, and Norman Mailer an inspiration. Wolcott’s enthusiasm for get-it-right attacks and appreciation burns as brightly whether he’s writing about television, comedy, music, movies, or books. Wolcott’s subjects range from the seventies sit-com, Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, to such current hits as Downton Abbey and Boardwalk Empire, Johnny Carson to David Letterman, Brian De Palma to Woody Allen, Ayn Rand to John Updike. He constructs each analysis and argument with shrewd, securely grounded observations and briskly establishes richly dimensional biographical, social, and aesthetic contexts. Wolcott’s provoking and illuminating critiques both channel and fuel the cultural ferment. --Donna Seaman

Product details

  • File Size: 4333 KB
  • Print Length: 514 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor (October 15, 2013)
  • Publication Date: October 15, 2013
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00CGI3E02
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Screen Reader: Supported
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #968,051 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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