cover image Going into the City: Portrait of a Critic as a Young Man

Going into the City: Portrait of a Critic as a Young Man

Robert Christgau. Morrow/Dey Street, $27.99 (384p) ISBN 978-0-06-223879-5

This sprawling, rambunctious, memoir by rock critic Christgau is sometimes tedious and dreary, often arrogant, yet nevertheless brimming with insight. He handily, and mostly affectionately, chronicles his childhood and youth in Flushing, Queens, where he didn’t excel at sports, but was good enough not to be picked last in pickup games, and where he developed a lifelong love of reading and music. A peripatetic forager among the fields of art, Christgau stops along the way to relish Dostoyevski’s Crime and Punishment (“He conveys the pain of poverty in physical detail and with psychological acuity”) and Truffaut’s Jules and Jim: the film “changed my life.” Even more than the arts, Christgau’s romantic relationships—his long-term partnership with rock critic Ellen Willis and his four-decade-old marriage to writer Carola Dibbell—”constituted an emotional education more action-packed than my professional progress.” In the late 1960s, Christgau rose to the top of a pack of such rock critics as Paul Williams and Richard Meltzer, and he declares, “like most young critics... I was pretty damn sure of myself.” (Mar.)