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Conversations with Greil Marcus

Joe Bonomo

Publication Year: 2012

Greil Marcus once said to an interviewer, "There is an infinite amount of meaning about anything, and I free associate." For more than four decades, Marcus has explored the connections among figures, sounds, and events in culture, relating unrelated points of departure, mapping alternate histories and surprising correspondences. He is a unique and influential voice in American letters.

Marcus was born in 1945 in San Francisco. In 1968 he published his first piece, a review of Magic Bus: The Who on Tour, in Rolling Stone, where he became the magazine's first records editor. Renowned for his ongoing "Real Life Top Ten" column, Marcus has been a writer for a number of magazines and websites, and is the author and editor of over fifteen books. His critique is egalitarian: no figure, object, or event is too high, low, celebrated, or obscure for an inquiry into the ways in which our lives can open outward, often unexpectedly.

In Conversations with Greil Marcus, Marcus discuses in lively, wide-ranging interviews his books and columns as well as his critical methodology and broad approach to his material, signaled by a generosity of spirit leavened with aggressive critical standards.

Published by: University Press of Mississippi

Series: Literary Conversations Series

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. ix-xv

“There is an infinite amount of meaning about anything,” Greil Marcus said to an interviewer. “And I free associate.” For more than four decades, Marcus has explored the connections among figures, sounds, and events in culture, relating unrelated points of departure, mapping alternate histories and surprising correspondences...


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pp. xvii-xx

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A Critic on His Music

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pp. 3-8

Not many rock critics have made a name for themselves. The musical form is over twenty-five years old, yet most reviews still consist either of strings of superlatives (“the awesome vocal is propelled by thunderous guitars and a pounding bass”) or snide putdowns (“Dobrewski sings like an albino orangutan in heat”). Intelligent...

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An Interview with Greil Marcus

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pp. 9-27

Greil Marcus: The Free Speech Movement was a big shock. It was confusing, it was surprising, it was exciting, it was a day-by-day event than lasted almost three months. It was astonishing. Following that was the so-called “Filthy Speech Movement.” I’ll never forget Mario [Savio, political activist and a key member...

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Making Too Much of a Song: An Interview with Greil Marcus

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pp. 28-42

Greil Marcus is one of the original batch of American rock critics. Marcus, along with Richard Meltzer, Lester Bangs, Robert Christgau, Dave Marsh, and Jon Landau were among the first writers to deal seriously with rock and pop culture in this country in the ’60s. Marcus’s credits are lengthy and distinguished...

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pp. 43-55

Greil Marcus: It was the first Sex Pistols song I heard. It was their first record, and when I first heard it there was a lot of noise coming over from England to California, where I live, about this strange new trouble festering in London and this unlistenable, outrageous music that was coming along with it. So I went...

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Now We Are Engaged in a Great Cultural Civil War

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pp. 56-62

An early editor at Rolling Stone magazine, Marcus has written two books, Mystery Train: Images of America in Rock ‘n’ Roll Music and Lipstick Traces, a book that uses the punk movement as a springboard for a trip through some of the most extreme and ephemeral radical arts movements of the last century. He is currently...

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Dead Elvis, or Long Live the King

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pp. 63-71

It’s been over fourteen years since the death of Elvis Presley, but instead of being left to rest in peace, the King seems to pop up in the damnedest places. That’s right; no matter where you look, Elvis is everywhere. In everywhere from baseball games to Wild at Heart and This Is Spinal Tap, you will find Elvis...

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Punk: A Generation Later

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pp. 72-89

Geoff Pevere: Hi, I’m Geoff Pevere. The myth of punk music goes like this: it burned bright; it burned hard; and it burned out, and faster than you can say “never mind the bollocks.” The truth is a little more complicated; the truth has to do with the spirit and an aftershock whose reverberations are still being felt. Punk...

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Greil Marcus

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pp. 90-105

It is perhaps worth remembering that the cultural landscape of 1975—the year that Greil Marcus’s first book Mystery Train appeared—was very different from today’s. Punk was still no more than a rumbling noise up around the bend, most rock writers wrote sycophantically about superstars, and books about rock...

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Greil Marcus: Do Politics Rock?

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pp. 106-117

Anyone who has done any reading about music knows about the person responsible for Mystery Train, Lipstick Traces, Dead Elvis, The Dustbin of History, Ranters and Crowd Pleasers and most recently Invisible Republic. He’s also edited a great collection of Lester Bangs writings (Psychotic Reactions) and the original collection...

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All These Inches Away Where Greil Marcus Began

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pp. 118-129

Wondering how Bob Dylan resurrected his career in the nineties or what Elvis Presley and Bill Clinton have in common? Curious which novel’s unabridged audio cassettes Marcus calls 2000’s Album of the Year—“Nothing came close,” he insists—or what made Lester Bangs one of rock music’s most eloquent critics...

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Online Exchange with Greil Marcus

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pp. 130-156

Hey Greil. My question is pretty obvious, but maybe no one else asked it: what do you think of the canonization of rock critics that a site like Rock-Critics.com represents? Why does rock criticism lend itself to this kind of, for lack of a better word, idolatry? Film critics never got or get this particular kind...

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Greil Marcus: Interview

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pp. 157-175

The thing about Bush is that he’s an extraordinarily effective demagogue. So was his father. They know how to play on people’s fears, and even more than that, on their bigotries. Both of them—George W. Bush more so than his father, I think—are in essence bullies. They take pleasure in lording it over other...

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Interview with Greil Marcus and Werner Sollors

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pp. 176-200

In September 2009, Harvard University Press published A New Literary History of America, edited by Greil Marcus and Werner Sollors. The book is an anthology of original essays that kaleidoscopically comprise not only literature and fiction but many different fields from philosophy and science to political rhetoric...

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20 Questions: Greil Marcus

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pp. 201-206

Indeed, a skilled bridge-builder who spans the chasm between academia and pop culture, the critic who cut his teeth on Rolling Stone, Creem, and the Village Voice has another book out this month, Bob Dylan by Greil Marcus: Writings 1968–2010. We’re pleased to have him back with us, this time in the playful...


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pp. 207-217

E-ISBN-13: 9781621030638
E-ISBN-10: 1617036226
Print-ISBN-13: 9781617036224

Page Count: 240
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: Literary Conversations Series