Considering how hard I took the news of his dismissal, I had to keep reminding myself that Robert Christgau didn’t die—he just doesn’t write for the Voice anymore.
Los Angeles, California
I’ve been writing for the Voice for about seven years, and, honestly, when I first started pitching story ideas to then-editor Chuck Eddy, I was wild about the thought that I was gonna be published in the same paper that ran stories by Greg Tate, Jeff Chang, “Media Assassin” Harry Allen, Camden Joy, “Metal” Mike Saunders (my fave, hands down), George Smith, Gary Giddens, Kelefa Sanneh, and, yes, Robert Christgau. As far as I know, the Voice was the only publication whose music section regularly served up long-form criticism by some of the country’s smartest, edgiest, and most passionate wordsmiths. Not a lot of sound-bite reviews. Not many cordial interviews with flavors of the month. Zero predictability. The emphasis wasn’t on entertaining readers or spoon-feeding them information. It was on applying to popular music the same intellectual rigor and personal (but not necessarily first person-specific) perspectives regularly used by professional wonks to make sense of art/architecture, books, film, and theater. Now that the cool long-form criticism and its chief producers are gone, how will the Voice‘s music section distinguish itself from every other mag’s? The writing is still strong, but the writing’s strong everywhere. And Rolling Stone and Blender run photos of babes. And everyone knows, you can’t compete with babes.
Fort Worth, Texas
Come to think of it, why bother with remarks? This ballot is sent almost as a protest, not from the elements of fat that Christgau said marbled the list of critics a couple of years ago, but from the ornery gristle that sticks around after his departure. May the Voice and P&J both choke on it. Truth is, if the dean weren’t taking part in this poll as well, I probably wouldn’t have either. So he better turn up on the participating list.
Finally, I have no doubt that people who were much closer to the whole situation will have much more trenchant comments about the dismissal of Robert Christgau from the pages of the Voice, but as somebody who started reading the Consumer Guide (in the pages of Creem!) only a year after Dylan last hit #1, it just seemed stupid and shortsighted to me.
When New Times fired Christgau and Eddy from the Voice I figured that contributing to the Pazz & Jop poll would be as unpleasant as walking through a picket line, but when I read that Christgau would still be voting I concluded that contributing would be like going to Wal-Mart, an unpleasant thing that I rationalize. So hey, New Times, you should still be ashamed, but thanks at least for getting Christgau on NPR, where he’s nicely bringing Lil’ Jon to the middlebrow masses.
And by god, Robert Christgau’s dumping by this paper made me angry as well. For almost a quarter-century, I’ve come to the Voice knowing I could read someone who could and did write insightfully and passionately about Captain Beefheart and Karen Carpenter, who didn’t write off hip-hop or let indie rock put a ring through his nose. Yes, he could be obtuse; yes, his political and philosophical biases could impact his writing with all-too-predicable results; yes, he stretched himself thin, and extended himself ridiculously over many barrels. But the fucker was funny, thought-provoking, committed, and smart. Which is more than I can say for that douchebag “Status Ain’t Hood.” I mean, come on—Michael Musto’s approach works for celebrity, but for popular art? You just cut your own nuts off. Now I’d rather read Rolling Stone—even Blender!!!!—if only because I know I am going to get brief but incisive commentary from a writer whose critical faculties I can trust. Hopefully, Francis Davis won’t be the next to go.
Weep not for the Dean. Longer than many of you have been alive, he actually had a job. The last time I had a job, it was 1998. Since then, just gigs. My wife’s the one with the job. Consequently, this freelancer has learned how to block a sweater. My pork tenderloin isn’t bad either. The net giveth and the net taketh away. All my paid work in ’06 was short, snappy, upbeat copy for a publication that will cease to exist as soon as portable, flexible, inexpensive screens bring online content to D.C. straphangers. The upside? With thoughtful, long-form arts journalism in full retreat, I’ve started reading books again. Pretty damn good, those things.
Silver Spring, Maryland