cover image Heroes and Villains: Essays on Music, Movies, Comics, and Culture

Heroes and Villains: Essays on Music, Movies, Comics, and Culture

David Hajdu. Da Capo Press, $17.95 (352pp) ISBN 978-0-306-81833-2

In this rollicking collection of mostly previously published essays, Hadju (The Ten-Cent Plague; Positively 4th Street) combines the cutting candor of Lester Bangs and the measured and judicious cultural learning of Lionel Trilling as he takes aim at subjects ranging widely from jazz, rock and country music and cartoon characters like Elmer Fudd to broader cultural topics such as blogging, MySpace, and remixing. Hadju writes affectionately about the old Warner Brothers cartoons, recalling the respite they provided from the tumult of the 1960s, every night before dinner. In another essay, he uses the release of Joni Mitchell's album, Shine, as an entrée into a moving retrospective of her music and a bit of mourning over her recent absence from the music scene. In a superb comparison of the music of Lucinda Williams, Taylor Swift, and Beyoncé, he captures Williams as a woman rare among pop stars, possessing unfeathered intelligence, untheatrical carnality, and uncompromising humanity. Hadju's opening essay on jazz great Billy Eckstine is alone worth the price of admission, a poignant portrait of a brilliant musician whose star might have risen even higher had he been born in a different era. Hadju's essays never fail to amuse, please and provoke.