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Critical Mass: Four Decades of Essays, Reviews, Hand Grenades, and Hurrahs

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4.05  ·  Rating Details ·  74 Ratings  ·  10 Reviews
A career-spanning collection of critical essays and cultural journalism from one of the most acute, entertaining, and sometimes acerbic (but in a good way) critics of our time

From his early-seventies dispatches as a fledgling critic for The Village Voice on rock ’n’ roll, comedy, movies, and television to the literary criticism of the eighties and nineties that made him bo
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ebook, 512 pages
Published October 15th 2013 by Anchor (first published April 14th 2013)
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Paul Duggan
Jan 06, 2014 Paul Duggan rated it really liked it
Since I spent the 70s, 80s and 90s trying to make a living (and doing the best I can), this excellent book of essays, reviews and criticism filled in many gaps in my experience.

The Velvet Underground wasn't a subterranean New York nightclub; CBGB was; Talking Heads I knew; Jack Kerouac I knew; William Styron's backstory I didn't know.

I was reminded how much I enjoy Amis, pere et fils. SO now I have a long list of Amis novels to read or reread.

An excellent book by an excellent writer.

Jon
Jan 04, 2014 Jon rated it really liked it
Wolcott is an excellent writer, and reading this book, with its voluminous research and wide-ranging subject matter only made me realize how much I don't know about criticism. Even the writers I haven't read, music I haven't heard, intellectual critics I don't even care about Wolcott brings to life. Just the context of his writing brings about understanding. Highly worth the investment of time.
James Smith
May 04, 2015 James Smith rated it it was amazing
Fantastic book. Just the shot in the arm I needed as a writer and editor. Purchased at the oasis that is Vromans in Pasadena.
Dave Hood
Mar 19, 2014 Dave Hood rated it it was amazing
Enjoyable read by a writer who has a superb writing style
Ugh
Jan 08, 2017 Ugh rated it really liked it
Books of multimedia criticism and cultural comment are my new favourite kind of book, and this is a very good one of those (albeit low on freespinning comment).

Wolcott is excellent on films and tv, and very good on books and music. He isn't as outrageously caustic as some critics, tending more towards fair-handed assessment. But he still has a mean turn of phrase on occasion, and a solid eye for quoting the acidity of others.

Entries such as those on the Michael Mann film Heat and on New York No
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Rick
Jan 11, 2016 Rick rated it really liked it
I first read James Wolcott 25 years ago in the Village Voice. He was a great TV critic. He recognized as I did the brilliance of Bosom Buddies. Certainly Tom Hanks finest work. I prowled through this massive collection of reviews and critiques of TV, music, comedy, movies and books over several months and was never disappointed. Wolcott has great taste and his likes generally conform to mine. He uses prose like a rapier or sledgehammer depending on the effect needed. Wolcott is not an academic b ...more
Brendan
May 02, 2015 Brendan rated it really liked it
Shelves: own, 2015-read
Fancy that, a talking stag! Wolcott on Lit > TV > Rock > Film. The density of later publications made me a bit wistful for the length restrictions of his Voice/Texas Monthly reviews, but that's a shallow complaint when we're dealing with prose as fine-woven as this. Favorite tendency is his fondness for a parenthetical gag after quoting an author - the opening fragment here following a ludicrous love scene out of Mailer. The closing Lena Dunham essay from TNR was, I think, my real intro ...more
Kendall
Feb 18, 2015 Kendall rated it liked it
I'd never heard of James Wolcott but apparently he's an incredibly prolific film/book/music/media critic whose career started way back in the '70s. This book is a sweeping collection of his essays about aforementioned films/books/music/etc. over the past four decades. Wolcott definitely knows how to turn a phrase, but my main takeaway from this compendium is that all of the directors, comedians, actors, and writers (especially the writers) under his microscope are depressed, misogynistic, philan ...more
Deke
Jun 20, 2015 Deke rated it liked it
While beautifully and often brilliantly written, this collection of essays isn't for everyone, especially if you're young or have no knowledge of the New Yorker set circa Truman Capote and Normal Mailer.
Rj
Mar 28, 2014 Rj rated it liked it
A really good collection of Wolcott's essays on popular culture. Divided into sections on film, literature and culture.
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“That vervey spontaneity became encounter theater therapy under the direction of the Marquis de Paar, who was peerless at grittily vapid chatter, misty bathos, and scenery-chewing controversy. Dick Cavett, who wrote for Paar, said that working for him was like having an alcoholic in the family.” 0 likes
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