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John Rockwell Anthology

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This notice came in the mail this week.

Available in October from Amadeus Press/Limelight Editions


John Rockwell on the Arts, 1967-2006

By John Rockwell

568pp., hardcover, 6‰x 9‰

©2006, ISBN # 0-87910-333-7, $34.95

"The excitement of arts journalism comes in voicing my own opinion, trying to shape the aesthetic experience into something communicable to others," declares world-renowned New York Times arts critic John Rockwell in the introduction to his new book Outsider: John Rockwell on the Arts, 1967-2006. From his earliest pieces writing program notes for the San Francisco Opera and as the San Francisco correspondent for the Opera News, to becoming classical music and dance critic for the Oakland Tribune in the late 60s and later at the LA Times, to the East Coast where he was a classical music and rock critic for the New York Times, to his present-day position as chief dance critic for the New York Times, Outsider presents his unique, thought-provoking vision of the arts scene throughout the past four decades. It includes his often humorous and frank criticism and commentary on classical music (including the full scope of contemporary composition), rock, dance, art, theater, books, general arts topics, and reports from abroad.

The reviews and essays, taken mostly from the Times, also include pieces from seventeen other sources, such as the Los Angeles Times, The New Republic, the San Francisco Examiner, High Fidelity, Opera, and the Village Voice.

John Rockwell is currently the chief dance critic of the New York Times. Before joining the Times in 1972, he was a critic for the Oakland Tribune and the Los Angeles Times. From 1972 to 1991 he was a classical music critic for the New York Times, and from 1974 to 1980 he was also the paper‚s chief rock critic. Between 1992 and 1994 he was based in Paris as European cultural correspondent. >From 1994-1998 he directed the Lincoln Center Festival, rejoining the Times in 1998 and serving until 2002 as editor of the Sunday Arts and Leisure section. He returned to writing in March 2002 as senior cultural correspondent and arts columnist, and became chief dance critic in January 2005. His three books are All American Music: Composition in the Late Twentieth Century, Sinatra: An American Classic, and The Idiots, a monograph on Lars von Trier's film for the British Film Institute.

Caroline Howell

Publicity and Marketing Manager

Amadeus Press LLC/Limelight Editions

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Thanks, sandik. Perhaps the anthology is in the nature of a summing-up; Rockwell plans to leave The New York Times at the end of the year.

The San Francisco-native began as the Times' classical music critic in 1972, and from 1974 until 1980 held that position in addition to serving as the paper's chief rock critic. From 1980 until the early '90s he was the Times' designated classical music critic, and became a European cultural correspondent in Paris from 1992 until 1994. Between 1994 and 1998, Rockwell served as director of the Lincoln Center Festival. Upon rejoining the Times in 1998 he served as editor of the Sunday Arts and Lesiure section, relinquishing that post in 2002 to write as an arts columnist. The Times is reportedly looking for a candidate to fill his current post as the paper's chief dance critic, which he has held since 2004.
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I wonder how many more times we will read variations on a theme of "All kinds of people, trivially and profoundly, have tried to pin down dance, to define what it is and is not, and some of them get quite feisty if you challenge their definitions" between now and then.


That's EXACTLY what I thougth when I read that review, Helene. I'm sure that that formula won't die with Rockwell's departure, but he certainly wore it thin while he was there! I *wanted* to like him--he held the promise of contextualizing dance on a par with the way other arts writers contextulaize their objects of criticism. But he just didn't have enough expertise in dance, sad to say. I know that ballet-goers have been particularly disappointed with him; his knowledge of modern (and other forms of) dance was similarly, frustratingly limited too.

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At times, Rockwell drove me nuts when it was all too apparent that he lacked qualifying knowledge for the job. However, I truly appreciated that he did not engage in pandering for a particular ballet company the way a predecessor did. Considering the mass exodus of talent from The New York Times as the result of retirements, layoffs and buyouts over the past few years, it's surprising (and perhaps we should be grateful) that the paper is actually searching for a replacement.

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Considering the mass exodus of talent from The New York Times as the result of retirements, layoffs and buyouts over the past few years, it's surprising (and perhaps we should be grateful) that the paper is actually searching for a replacement.

Well.....I wouldn’t go that far. Buyouts and departures are happening all over the industry, but I doubt that the Times would eliminate the position of chief dance critic. I wasn’t crazy about the choice of Rockwell and look with hope toward his successor, but the paper still sends Rockwell out to Oregon to review PNB and elsewhere to review other regional companies, and there’s also Kourlas, Dunning, et al., as backup.

The appointment of Rockwell always had a kind of interim feel in any case. (I can’t imagine it was his dream job.)

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