Author M.G. Lord on Culture Crash

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Over the next few weeks I'll be posting the endorsements I get for my upcoming book Culture Crash: The Killing of the Creative Class, due in January from Yale University Press. With coolness and equanimity, Scott Timberg tells what in less-skilled hands could have been an overwrought horror story: the end of culture as we have known it. He mourns the loss of independent book- and record-store … [Read more...]

Do Adorno and Benjamin Still Speak to Us?

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THERE's an excellent Alex Ross essay in the latest New Yorker on the Frankfurt School and the rise and fall and perhaps rise again of its reputation. Ross leads this way: In Jonathan Franzen’s 2001 novel, “The Corrections,” a disgraced academic named Chip Lambert, who has abandoned Marxist theory in favor of screenwriting, goes to the Strand Bookstore, in downtown Manhattan, to sell off his … [Read more...]

The Sad State of New Music

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THESE days I'm working on a series about commissioning new music -- and some of the news is good, offering more and different kinds of options to composers and audiences alike. But this Guardian piece recounting a survey of British composers reminds me how complex, wide-ranging and sometimes depressing the field of composing classical music can be. One sobering part of the report: The average … [Read more...]

James Ellroy, The Big Picture

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HOW does the new Ellroy novel, Perfidia, shape our thinking of his career? How has he changed as a writer? How does he fit in to noir's history, and has he changed the field? These questions were on my mind while I was writing a recent profile of the edgy novelist, so I asked J. Kingston Pierce, editor of The Rap Sheet crime fiction blog and and lead crime-fiction blogger for Kirkus … [Read more...]

The Death of Art’s Third Place

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DAVE Hickey has long been one of the orneriest and most original voices in the art world -- his book Air Guitar is a revelation -- and he recently posted something that hits me almost literally where I live. He's talking about the disappearance of a discourse around visual art that is neither grounded in academia or the marketplace. Here it is in full: Here's one thing that has changed. For most … [Read more...]

Elvis Costello at the Hollywood Bowl

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OVER the weekend, the former Angry Young Man played the Bowl, alongside indie piano man Ben Folds, both accompanied by the LA Philharmonic. I'm split on the show. Because both artists had equal billing, Costello had to squeeze a career that goes back to the 1970s into an hourlong set. It was too short, and his syncing up with the Phil was uneven -- sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't. But … [Read more...]

The Wild and Romantic Robyn Hitchcock

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ONE of the most unexpectedly delightful records of the year is the new LP by psychedelic Brit Robyn Hitchcock. The former Soft Boy has been moving in a more romantic and understated direction lately, but the album -- produced by Joe Boyd, known for his work with Britfolk gods and R.E.M. -- took me by surprise. It's a low-key acoustic collection of half original material and half covers, including … [Read more...]

James Ellroy: The Demon Dog is Back

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AFTER completing his Underworld U.S.A. Trilogy and writing a memoir about his often tortured relationships with women, crime writer James Ellroy is back with a new quartet of novels that will serve as a prequel to his Los Angeles Quartet -- the four great novels that include L.A. Confidential.  A few days ago, I hung out with Ellroy at the downtown Pacific Dining Car while he double-fisted … [Read more...]

An LA Novelist Pleads With Amazon

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JANET Fitch, a friend whose writing I admire, has written an open letter to Jeff Bezos of Amazon about what the online bookseller is doing to the literary  trade and the the nation's "intellectual life." Amazon's dominance means its decisions matter, she writes: "I'd like this profession of author to remain a possibility for young writers in the future." More from the White Oleander/ Paint it … [Read more...]

Alex Ross on the Physicality of Music

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THE New Yorker's classical music critic is one of the least stodgy and most forward-looking of writers; he got in on blogging early and thinks classical music and digital technology are natural allies. But even he has reservations about the disappearance of records and CDs into the cloud. His new piece, about "The pleasures and frustration of listening online," is well worth reading. The … [Read more...]