The influence of Pauline Kael, Greil Marcus, Bill James, Stanley Kauffmann, Jim Bouton, and Robert Christgau on my own writing is sometimes easy to spot, and at other times could only be detected by me. Sometimes it’s stylistic, sometimes it’s a shared enthusiasm, more often it’s a way of looking at something. In the interview with Marcus I did for Nerve in 1987—the only interview I’ve reprinted in this book (Joey Ramone, Johnny Thunders, Richard Berry, Martin Degville—I passed over some giants)—there are ideas I’ve always tried to keep in mind when fumbling around for an explanation of why I love some song. Above all else, that the important thing is not what the artist intended, but rather what does it feel like to listen to this piece of music?—what does it remind me of, what puzzles me about it, what meaningless event in my own life does it speak to? “What I’m interested in is what happens when you listen”—it’s an approach that can send me off on a tangent, one that may begin with autobiography and end with a dumb joke, but, to me at least, that’s a more entertaining, surprising, and (I hope) insightful path than filing a general report on the emotional well-being of Bruce Springsteen or Kanye West.
[from the chapter introduction]
…A few months ago, the Consumer Guide bowed out for the second or third (fourth?) time. (It hasn’t always been called the Consumer Guide, but as long as there were capsule reviews with letter grades, it still felt like the Consumer Guide.) My guess is it won’t be back this time, and that saddens me more than I would have expected. After devouring his ‘70s book in my 20s, and then really caring about Pazz & Jop results all through the ‘80s, I basically shut out Christgau through the ‘90s. I’d been writing for a few years by then, and was putting out a fanzine with a number of Pazz & Jop voters as contributors. I was mad that I wasn’t getting a ballot myself (why I thought Christgau would know about my fanzine without someone actually giving him a copy, I’m not sure). Somewhere in there a friend and I put out a book on pop music in the ‘70s, and I made sure that we omitted Christgau in the acknowledgements, where we listed a few key music books covering the decade—against mild objections from my friend, as I remember it, but he didn’t make an issue of it. One review made mention of Christgau’s ‘70s book, hinting that it was an odd omission. Anyway, for as long as it lasted, it was an excellent grudge. Like many of my grudges it was secret, so the world went ahead as before…
[from Wussy/No Age entry in 2013 year-end ballot]