Many of you who read Greil Marcus back in the day have perhaps not kept up with his career. Mystery Train, his first book, is the best critical study of popular music ever published. His 1989 tome Lipstick Traces is really a bravura performance, a great big edifice of original thought about a specific strain of subversive art that has echoed down the decades of the 20th Century, from Tristan Tzara to Johnny Rotten. It is an absolutely stunning piece of work; there's really nothing else remotely like it.
I'm currently writing an essay on Marcus, and that afforded me the opportunity to read his lastest book,The Shape of Things to Come: Prophecy and The American Voice. It is typical Marcus: highly eccentric, bouncing as it does from Philip Roth to actor Bill Pullman to Twin Peaks to Martina McBride. But Marcus engages you, forces you to examine connections that you've never considered before, to argue his points and perhaps work through your own feelings about what Marcus is positing. How many writers can even pull that off anymore, without resorting to cant or politically-tinged received wisdom? Even when I disagree with Marcus, I'm grateful for his intellectual passion and rigor, and his willingness to dig deeper and exhume forgotten artists and cranks that nonetheless provide connective tissue to our current cultural condition. So check it out when it's published in the Fall.