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Beginning to See the Light

Sex, Hope, and Rock-and-Roll

2012
Author:

Ellen Willis

Beginning to See the Light

Ellen Willis traces the development of rock-and-roll and the legacy of the ’60s and ’70s

From the New Yorker’s first pop music critic comes this pioneering collection of essays by a conscientious writer whose political realm is both radical and rational, and whose prime preoccupations are with rock-and-roll, sexuality, and above all, freedom. Here Ellen Willis captures the thrill of music, the disdain of authoritarian culture, and the rebellious spirit of the ’60s and ’70s.

If this book can be said to make one central assumption, it is that there really is such a thing as liberation.

Ellen Willis, from the Introduction

From the New Yorker’s inimitable first pop music critic comes this pioneering collection of essays by a conscientious writer whose political realm is both radical and rational, and whose prime preoccupations are with rock-and-roll, sexuality, and above all, freedom. Here Ellen Willis assuredly captures the thrill of music, the disdain of authoritarian culture, and the rebellious spirit of the ’60s and ’70s.

Beginning to See the Light

Ellen Willis (1941–2006) was the first pop music critic for the New Yorker and an editor and columnist at the Village Voice. A groundbreaking radical leftist author and thinker, she contributed to numerous publications, including Rolling Stone, the New York Times, and the Nation, and was the founder of the Cultural Reporting and Criticism program at New York University. Her work is published in three other books of essays: Out of the Vinyl Deeps, No More Nice Girls, and Don’t Think, Smile!

Beginning to See the Light

Very impressive … what is perhaps most striking about Willis’s personal journalism is the constant interplay of its basic strands—anti-elitist, radical, feminist, Jewish.

Kirkus Reviews

If this book can be said to make one central assumption, it is that there really is such a thing as liberation.

Ellen Willis, from the Introduction

Now that the University of Minnesota has issued three of Ellen’s finest anthologies, we are afforded an excellent opportunity to evaluate her writing over the course of 30 years. She covered a lot of ground, beginning with rock, and its place in the culture. In later years, she had moved away from popular culture, and much further into deeper sociological concerns. . . There really is something for everyone in them--she was a writer with strong opinions, and these collections are a rare treat.

Blogcritics.org

Her essays are long arcs toward an answer—an answer that sometimes eludes her. As the political and social battles she fought have either faded away or changed shape, her humility remains startling. In our world of binary polemics and Likebutton activism, to suggest that thought is a process and ideas the result of a narrative is startling, energizing—countercultural, even.

Slate Magazine

The work of Ellen Willis must be read. This will enable the shifting of perspectives and structures of oppression while making way for real democracy and freedom.

PopMatters.com