Robert Christgau, the notoriously grumpy self-appointed Dean of American Rock Critics, may soon be on the receiving end of some scowling critic's snark. A literary critic, for that matter. After more than 45 years in the music writing business, Christgau is writing a memoir.
Never one for social media, Christgau revealed the news rather indirectly (as is his style) and lengthily (as is not). He snuck it into a piece about two other memoirs—Fugs member Ed Sanders's Fug You and science fiction writer Samuel R. Delany's The Motion of Light in Water—for the Barnes and Noble Review. Here's the big reveal:
I've been reading a lot of memoirs lately, for two reasons. The first is the glut of rockbooks written by boomer musicians with time on their hands for boomer fans with memories deteriorating. The second is that I'm writing a memoir of my own, and always immerse in work that might clarify the project at hand.
The "project at hand" is not really clarified in any greater detail. But Christgau's thoughts on memoirs in general are. He is characteristically cranky, which is no surprise, and thinks they should contain more sex, which maybe is. Also, he likes porn:
Two things about memoirs often annoy me: they go on too much about the nature of memory and there's not enough sex in them. Memory is indeed unreliable; memory does oft support alternate, nay, contradictory narratives; memory speaks loud and ineffable to our mortal selves' longing for an immortality that would drive us nuts if it proved our fate. Got it. As for sex, it's not because I like pornography, which I do, and which performs its arousal function quite well with no outside help. Nor is it because I'm nosy, which I am, and aren't you? It's because in my experience sex and the love that generally comes with it—a big qualification, I know, but even memoirists who've had a lot more loveless sex than I have either include sex in their primary love relationships or should explain why they don't—plays a determinative role in most lives.
These are, of course, problems he is tackling in his own book, which finds him butting heads with the "logic of discretion" and realizing he does not have the right to violate anyone else's privacy. Admiring Delany's book, he writes, "I hope I can write as well about the women I've loved."
Indeed, let's hope he writes about them more tactfully than the albums he did not.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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