Forward: Ellen Willis and Me
Ellen Willis died in 2006, but her voice still echoes in the culture.
Willis was the first pop music critic for The New Yorker, an editor and writer for the Village Voice and Rolling Stone, founder of the Cultural Reporting and Criticism program at New York University and a feminist thinker of some renown. She wasn’t the most famous critic of her generation, but her political and cultural essays retain their relevance decades after they were written.
A few weeks ago I went to a book party celebrating the release of “The Essential Ellen Willis,” published in May by the University of Minnesota Press. The event was held at Galapagos, a modestly swanky venue in the DUMBO section of Brooklyn.
Willis was a notable rock critic, and when a previous collection of her writing, “Out of the Vinyl Deeps,” was published in 2011, I wrote a piece on that aspect of her career myself. So instead of rehashing the biographical overview, the career summary, the hits and highlights, I’d like to write about something else: what Willis means to me, personally, as a critic. In other words, indulge me for a bit while I talk shop.
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