The Dustbin of History

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Since the late 1960’s, Greil Marcus has been commenting on popular culture. He first made a name for himself as one of the editors and writers of ROLLING STONE. Although Marcus is considered one of the most respected American critics of rock music, he has written on a variety of topics for such publications as THE NEW YORK TIMES, THE NEW YORKER, ARTFORUM, and THE THREEPENNY REVIEW. In 1975, Marcus published MYSTERY TRAIN: IMAGES OF AMERICA IN ROCK ’N’ ROLL MUSIC, which was the first book he authored on his own. Since then, he has published LIPSTICK TRACES (1989), DEAD ELVIS: A CHRONICLE OF A CULTURAL OBSESSION (1993), and RANTERS AND CROWD PLEASERS: PUNK IN POP MUSIC 1977-92 (1993). Marcus has been described as a social commentator who is able to meld street smarts with academic learning. This combination has served him well in the essays he has written over the years.

For THE DUSTBIN OF HISTORY, Marcus has collected more than twenty essays. In one of the earliest essays, “Gotterdammerung After Twenty-one Years,” (which was first published in ROLLING STONE in 1976), Marcus discusses the subject of Nazism and the search for Nazi war criminals after World War II. Marcus is a master at commenting on popular music, and the essays concerning the singing duo Jan and Dean, the songwriter Deborah Chussler, and blues legend Robert Johnson are all lucid and thought-provoking. Unfortunately, Marcus attempts to cover so many topics in this collection that the reader may come away suffering from intellectual whiplash. Marcus is a man of many interests and can write eloquently on most popular culture topics, but he would probably be better served if in the future he used more editorial focus to organize his next collection.