CRITICISM IN AMERICAN CULTURE: New releases Here are five titles that put the lie to the notion that criticism is a dying art. Corn Flakes With John Lennon And Other Tales from a Rock 'n' Roll Life Robert Hilburn Rodale: 280 pp., $24.99 Hilburn, The Times' former pop music critic, covered Johnny Cash's concert at Folsom Prison and interviewed Yoko Ono in her bedroom at the Dakota just a day or two after John Lennon died. Here, he tells his stories, recalling the musicians he has known and interviewed, and reflecting on the importance of popular music in his life. (Excerpts from the book will run next week in Calendar, starting Sunday.) Notes on Sontag Phillip Lopate Princeton University Press: 248 pp., $19.95 Essayist Lopate and Susan Sontag were acquaintances for many years, but this book is not a personal reminiscence in any fundamental way. Rather, it's a critical memoir, in which the author looks at Sontag's personality and her work to explore his own deep ambivalence about her as a cultural figure, framing her as at times brilliant and at times utterly self-indulgent, much like the times she sought to reflect. Heroes and Villains Essays on Music, Movies, Comics, and Culture David Hajdu Da Capo: 308 pp., $17.95 paper Hajdu is best known for "Lush Life: A Biography of Billy Strayhorn," "Positively 4th Street: The Lives and Times of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Mimi Baez Fariña and Richard Fariña" and "The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America." This book collects 40 of his essays, from the New Republic (where he is music critic) and elsewhere -- including a previously unpublished consideration of singer and bandleader Billy Eckstine -- covering comics, music and what he calls the "cultural machinery" ( Starbucks, MySpace) of contemporary life. Andy Warhol Arthur C. Danto Yale University Press: 150 pp., $24 Danto, art critic for the Nation, offers a brief look at the life and work of Andy Warhol, who transformed the face of American art in ways that are only now beginning to be understood. Neither a biography per se nor a work of art criticism in the strictest sense, the book is instead a kind of extended essay, a meditation on Warhol as icon, as his own greatest work of art. The Story About the Story Great Writers Explore Great Literature Edited by J.C. Hallman Tin House: 420 pp., $18.95 paper Gathering 31 essays, this book offers nothing less than a crash course in literature, as taught by some serious talent. Here, you'll find Albert Camus and D.H. Lawrence on Melville, Nabokov on Kafka's "The Metamorphosis," Wallace Stegner on Steinbeck and Czeslaw Milosz on Robert Frost, as well as plenty of contemporary contributors, including Alain de Botton, Geoff Dyer -- and Charles D'Ambrosio, who weighs in on J.D. Salinger.
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