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Michael J. West

I just realized I have to qualify myself. I did have a template. The first CD I ever bought, The Beatles' Yellow Submarine contained a London Observer review of The White Album. That and a ninth-grade English lesson on criticism taught me how to do it, and I've been working with that framework ever since.

But I don't guess I look at time-worn criticism much at all. I do have all of Giddins' VV anthologies, and I must admit that I learned much more from Crouch than I expected regarding how to think about jazz. But Giddins has me really wondering what I'm missing in terms of those critical "classics." I mostly remember them as exasperatingly dull reading assignments in my English classes. Time to reappraise, perhaps...

Nate Chinen

My early critical obsessions were all jazzbos, but as an English major I naturally came across a lot of literary theory. To answer your question, though, MJW: I can't say that I look to time-worn criticism as a template, but I do try to look there for insight, of one form or another. (Of course, not as often as I'd like.)

Giddins, in that aforementioned panel discussion, mentioned Dwight MacDonald. Sometime soon afterward I found a used copy of Against the American Grain at the Strand. Some of that thinking registered as hopelessly outdated, but it was all still great. (There's a lot more of that floating around, by the way.)

In a more contemporary vein: a few years ago Ben Ratliff hipped me to The Broken Estate, by James Wood, whose writing I watch for in the New Yorker. I don't always agree with Wood, but he can be imposingly good. And I haven't yet grabbed a copy of How Fiction Works, but that one has come highly recommended too.

Michael J. West

Interesting. Certainly I'm not a "student of criticism," per se - though I have favorite critics that I always read inside of jazz and out. But I don't often go chasing down Ruskin, Arnold, et al. for templates to dissect or follow. (Roger Ebert, maybe....)

Do you, Nate?

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