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Texas Book Festival Reviews

One of the deans of music criticism details his backstory

Reviewed by Jim Caligiuri, October 16, 2015, Music

Best known for his 35 years at The Village Voice where he started as a columnist, then became an editor and chief popular music critic, Robert Christgau influenced music and popular opinion worldwide. Sadly, his recollections of life in the Fifties and Sixties get clogged with personal ephemera that, while offering insight into his critical mindset, never sings. Dostoyevsky, Jules and Jim, and Alan Freed are offered as touchstones, and he witnessed Thelonious Monk in Greenwich Village, the Grateful Dead in the Haight, and the Clash at Leeds. He frequented CBGB at its height. Tales of his early days in New York City – he grew up in Queens, hence the title Going Into the City – bring an important era to life, but too often it's drowned in personal stories of interest to only a few. Rightly revered for his short reviews and Consumer Guides that turned thousands on to music they might never have known even existed, Christgau in a longer form proves beyond his reach. (TBF appearance: Sat., Oct. 17, 4pm, Texas State Capitol Extension room E2.010)

Going Into the City: Portrait of a Critic As a Young Man

by Robert Christgau
Dey Street Books, 384 pp., $27.99

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