Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Articles [NAJP]

The Future of Best Music Writing

In late November, shortly after the Alex Ross-edited 2011 edition of Best Music Writing appeared, rumors that Da Capo had pulled the plug on the series began circulating. But remarkably soon after that came word that series editor Daphne Carr, on board since 2006 (the in-house editor has been Ben Schafer since almost the beginning) had decided it was too late to stop now. So she proposed to continue the series as a self-published venture, and is seeking support of all kinds, including 30 grand in seed money that will buy you a 2012 edition (on which her labor of culling 2011 writing has surely long since begun) and testimonials from writers, editors, and fans. I'm all three myself, and just sent Daphne 50 bucks.

Whether she can make this happen, of course, remains to be seen. Her concept is to eliminate the series editor concept, dividing the pre-reading she does (and has been paid to do) among a 10-person editorial board that will presumably, as per tradition, winnow a vast number of possibilities down to a manageable 100-something that will then be further winnowed down to 30 or 40 by a guest editor who also adds his or her personal selections to the mix. In the past, most guest editors have been grateful to have a field to choose from and not added all that much of their own. That was my approach. But I know of at least one case in which the guest editor's selections were probably predominant. How all that would sort out under this plan remains unclear, as of course it must at this point. Also unclear is the eternal problem of indie projects: distribution. Knowing almost nothing about the book business myself, my special concern would be library sales. The great thing about the Best Music Writing books is that they help interested high school and college-age readers locate stimulating writing about music beyond the welter of online overproduction and the manifest limitations of Rolling Stone and the hip-hop press. I've enjoyed some editions more than others. But I know, for instance, that Holly George-Warren bases her course in music writing at SUNY New Paltz entirely on the series. It's been invaluable in an undervalued field. Please do whatever you can to help it continue.

Articles, Dec. 11, 2011


Making a Career of It