“Given as much to the gutter as to the gods” — Nick Tosches

“He was born alone. He would die alone. These truths, he, like every punk, took to heart. But in him they framed another truth, another solitary, stubborn stone in the eye of nothing. There was something, a knowing, in him that others did not apprehend. He was born alone, and he would die alone, yes. But in between — somehow — the world in all its glory would hunker down before him like a sweet-lipped High Street whore.” — Nick Tosches, Dino: Living High in the Dirty Business of Dreams

It’s his birthday today.

He died in December, 2019. I MISS HIM.

My Tosches Gateway Drug was his sui generis biography of Dean Martin, Dino: Living High in the Dirty Business of Dreams, and probably by page 2 I was thinking: “Okay. I must read every. single. word. this man ever wrote.”

And so I did. Thank God for The Nick Tosches Reader.

But there’s also his FIREBALL (pun intended) of a biography of Jerry Lee Lewis, Hellfire: The Jerry Lee Lewis Story, which reads like it was written during a single speed-fueled weekend. Dino has a deliberate and almost epic quality, the book takes its time, it lingers in spots where Tosches needs to elaborate, dig in … there’s none of that in Hellfire. From start to finish the book barely takes a breath.

What is most amazing is that Tosches’ subject outlived his biographer. Who the hell saw THAT one coming.

It’s almost impossible to convey what it is Tosches does to those who haven’t read him. When people talk about his Dino biography, or his Jerry Lee Lewis biography, they talk about it in raving evangelical tones. I know I do. We sound like a bunch of nutbags. I love Ron Chernow’s biographies. I love David McCullough’s biographies. I love Joseph Ellis’ biographies. But I don’t talk about their work the way I talk about Tosches’. He’s just different. A unicorn. He’s so quotable it is almost overwhelming: your mind keeps stopping every other sentence to contemplate not just what he says but HOW he says it. I want to make that clear: He is one of the few writers where I don’t care WHAT he’s writing about, I’m gonna read it. We’re talking about writing SKILL, ya dig. His writing is such a fingerprint he’s almost impossible to imitate. Similar to Truman Capote, to Lester Bangs … he carved his own lane. The overall impact of Tosches’ work – particularly his book-length works (although it exists in his shorter pieces too) – is cumulative. He builds … and builds … and builds … The more you read, the more you learn, about the various subjects but also about the man with the pen. He puts him SELF out there in his writing so strongly he’s hard to resist. This is what I try to do, in my own way. I am not here to convince you. I am here to state my OWN point of view as strongly as I can. If you agree, awesome, but agreement is not necessary. I am trying to get what is IN my head, my dreams, OUT. Tosches’ point of view is so seductive, his prose is so seductive, he practically hypnotizes you. If you disagree with his “take” on Dino, it barely matters. He barely leaves you room to maneuver with your own “take”. He’s like a brilliant prosecutor. Dean Martin was great and he didn’t need Tosches to “explain” him to the rest of us – HOWEVER: has anyone else thought DEEPER about Dean Martin than Tosches? I suggest to you: NO. Tosches gave a shit enough and had enough to say and SAW enough in Dean and his story … to put it all in that book. The conversation around Dean Martin is forever changed because of Tosches’ biography. There aren’t too many biographies you can say that about.

To call it a biography does it a disservice. It is an excavation of Dean Martin’s SOUL, but it’s also an in-depth geographical exploration of the Italian immigrant’s experience in America. I could not write like Tosches if I lived 100 more years, but I do take from it not just inspiration but a challenge. At least know a bar has been set … be aware of The Greats who came before you, allow them to push you to be better. And so when I write about Elvis, I am giving you MY Elvis. I have come to my “take” on him through studying him, inhaling him, dreaming about him, reading everything about him, pondering him. This is why people who have only thought of him shallow-ly, or who just take preconceived notions of him based on things other people said, don’t fare very well when they come at me about Elvis. I’ve thought more about this than you have. I can say that with confidence. lol

So here’s just one excerpt from Dino that shows Tosches working the way he works. To say this is a book “about Dean Martin” is ridiculous. Look at what he pulls off here.

The Desert Inn was still several months away from opening when Dean and Jerry arrived in September 1949. The Flamingo was still the jewel of that stretch of Highway 91 that came to be called the Strip. The Rex Cigar Store, the Jungle Inn, the 500 Club, the Riviera – the great and gaudy neon cathedral of the Flamingo was all these joints exalted. Here, married by God and by state, anointed in the blood of Bugsy Siegel, Unterwelt and American dream lay down together in greed.

Martin and Lewis by now were among the beloved of that dream, embracing and embraced by the spirit of a post-heroic, post-literate, cathode-culture America. The Flamingo was the pleasure dome of the new prefab promised land: a land of chrome, not gold; of Armstrong linoleum, not Carrara marble; of heptalk, not epos of prophecy.

Martin and Lewis were the jesters of that land. Time magazine, then as always the cutting edge of lumpen-American mediocrity, the vox populi of the modern world, celebrated the dazzling appeal of their hilarity. The heart of their audience, the nightclub clientele whose reduction to a quivering mass of thunderous yockers Variety attested again and again, was sophisticated, white-collared, and well-heeled. The sophisticated, white-collared, and well-heeled New York Times itself, in an article published while Martin and Lewis were in Las Vegas, hailed their “refreshing brand of comic hysteria,” their “wild and uninhibited imagination”.

And yet, these few years later, the nature of that appeal is as alien and as difficult to translate as the language, syntax, and meter of Catallus. There are no films or tapes of their nightclub act. Only secondary fragments have survived to be judged: glimpses of routines reworked for pictures, such as the “Donkey Serenade” scene in My Friend Irma, and for pale renderings on radio; a few rare kinescopes of television broadcasts, none of them predating 1952. Those fragments convey almost nothing of the dazzling appeal of that hilarity proclaimed in contemporary accounts. And yet the howling laughter present in many of those fragments, in the radio shows and television performances, all done before live spectators, is unanswerable. Those spectators, who had lined up for free shows at network studios, were not the same urbane nightclub-goers who howled at the Copacabana or Chez Paree or the Flamingo. Their sense of yockery was perhaps homelier; but, on the other hand, it was less primed by booze. Jerry was right: Martin and Lewis appealed to everyone. But why?

“Let us not be deceived,” the New York Times had declared in April 1947, while Dean and Jerry had been playing at the Loew’s Capitol; “we are today in the midst of a cold war.” Now, in September 1949, while they were in Las Vegas, President Truman, the first president to have a televised inauguration, revealed that the Soviet Union had set off an atomic-bomb explosion. A week later, on October 1, Chairman Mao Tse-tung would formally proclaim the Communist People’s Republic of China. In January, Truman would order the development of the hydrogen bomb. Six months later, United States ground troops would invade South Korea. “Let us not be deceived” — but America wanted nothing more than to be deceived. Martin and Lewis gave them that: not laughter in the dark, but a denial of darkness itself, a regression, a transporting to the preternatural bliss of infantile senselessness. It was a catharsis, a celebration of ignorance, absurdity, and stupidity, as meaningless, as primitive-seeming, and as droll today as the fallout shelters and beatnik posings which offered opposing sanctuary in those days so close in time but so distant in consciousness.

Those days were the beginning of the end of timelessness. Homer’s Odyssey spoke throughout the ages; Kerouac’s American odyssey, On the Road, would have a shelf life, and would prove after a handful of years more outdated and stale than Homer after thousands. But like the detergent on the shelf in that other supermarket aisle, it was for the moment new and improved; and that is what mattered. And that is why the dead-serious pretensions of Kerouac today seem so droll while the comedy of that same necrophiliac era seems so unfunny.

Dean, of course, had no use for any of this shit. He did not know the new and improved from the old and well-worn. Homer, Sorelli the Mystic: it was all the same shit to him. The Trojan War, World War II, the Cold War, what the fuck did he care? His hernia was bigger than history itself. He cared as much about Korea as Korea cared about his fucking hernia. He walked through his own world. And that world was as much a part of what commanded those audiences as the catharsis of the absurd slapstick; and it would continue to command, long after that catharsis, like a forgotten mystery rite, had lost all meaning and power. His uncaring air of romance reflected the flash and breezy sweet seductions of a world in which everything came down to broads, booze, and money, with plenty of linguine on the side. There was a beckoning to join him in the Lethe of the old ways’ woods that appealed to the lover, the menefreghista, the rotten cocksucker, the sweet-hearted dreamer in everyone.

I think what I’m trying to say is: for Tosches, shit is ALWAYS personal.

The thing about writing the way Tosches does: it’s vulnerable, because it reveals the level of your obsession. It reveals how much you GIVE a shit, how in thrall YOU are to your own subject. A lot of people, for some reason, hesitate, they don’t want to show us this, and so they fall back onto a bullshit tone of “objectivity”. It protects them. Tosches doesn’t give a fuck. He lives in the fucked-up darkness.

I take being a fan of something VERY seriously. Go as deep as you must. People will make fun of you. Call you “too much.” Fuck em. They’re just scared. Nick Tosches taught me that.

Tosches has written so much, too much to even absorb in one sitting:

— For Vanity Fair, he wrote a famous piece about his search for the last opium den (one of the most fucked-up things I’ve ever read in any major publication)

— his GREAT biography of Sonny Liston

— his incredible study of Unsung Heroes Of Rock ‘n’ Roll: The Birth Of Rock In The Wild Years Before Elvis

— his first book was about country music, Country.

Tosches is so so American, in every sense of the word. He is interested in the dark corners of Americana, forgotten byways, the criminal, the undersung, the fucked-up, the borderline cases.

I could pick his prose out just hearing it. He’s similar to Clifford Odets in that way.

I started re-reading The Nick Tosches Reader in 2019, right before he died. The timing was eerie. It took me a couple of months to go through the whole thing, reading on average a piece a day.

Some of his writing is soaringly transcendent but there’s always darkness too, it wouldn’t be Tosches without the darkness. Sometimes he shimmers with contempt. But his contempt isn’t a rant – not that there’s anything bad about ranting (nothing is bad if you can write as well as Tosches does. Lester Bangs ranted all the time, and I love it.) With Tosches, though, his contempt makes him even MORE focused, and his focus makes his critique that much more brutal. Like his piece on the concert for Bangladesh at Madison Square Garden – which he attended. That piece is so funny, and it drips with poisonous observations about the hypocrisy of all those middle-class do-gooders, as well as his dismay of the transformation of dangerous rock ‘n roll into something socially conscious and earnest and helpful and “aware”. In other words, not rock ‘n roll at all.

Like this:

On teevee they showed what the ticket-line area looked like after da people had, after waiting hours, gotten their tickets. It was just a whole big, dense trail of garbage. Soda cans, beer cans, newspapers, food wrappers, liquor bottles, wine bottles, paper bags. All sorts of ugly shit. And it just seems like plain old logic that people who don’t give a shit about so totally contaminating their immediate environment couldn’t possibly give two garboons about a few Pakistanis getting snuffed out of the carbon cycle scene thousands of miles away. What’s all this ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ shit? How come no songs about litterbugs? A person incapable of holding on to an empty wine bottle until he gets to a garbage receptacle is incapable of empathizing with Hollis Brown.

Throughout the piece, he keeps coming back to the image of the line of dirty hippies aglow with helping the world … littering up the sidewalk. They literally left the area outside Madison Square Garden as a garbage dump. Tosches keeps coming back to it:

I mean, people are dying and getting bricked out and the whole world is contaminated and this guy gets up there and sings “My sweet Lord/Hmm my Lord.” The total tepidity and quasi-philosophic non-relevance of such macrokitsch is on a par with Schopenhauer’s literary luncheon suicide spiels and Bertrand Russell’s “war crime tribunals.” Think of it as a two-track stereo tape and out of one channel you’ve got all these groans and screams and tuberculosis vomits and death noises and sobs and out of the other channel there’s this saccharine voice crooning nice Lord, sweet Lord, kiss kiss, here comes the sun, nice Lord, kiss kiss, sugar sugar, kiss kiss glitter glitter.

Schopenhauer? Bertrand Russell? Classic Tosches. He also is a living reminder of the importance of reading widely, reading curiously, reading everything. If you’re a writer and you don’t read … IT SHOWS. If you’re a writer and you only read stuff within your own narrow field … IT SHOWS.

One last observation to throw into the mix: Nick Tosches was self-educated. He did not go to college. He barely made it out of high school. He grew up rough on the streets of Newark and the surrounding gritty Jersey towns. He was a self-described punk. He brings an authentic working-class perspective to the question of American culture. Middle-class niceties were POISON to him. This has become a recent obsession: teasing out and searching for legitimately working-class points-of-view – in artists, writers, filmmakers. It’s hard to find. Tosches came from the streets. And yet he wrote the way he did. But you can feel the streets in everything he writes. This is very very important.

In the Madison Square Garden piece, he writes, and this is perhaps the most important paragraph:

I mean, does rock’n’ roll have anything to do with anything? Once it adopts pretensions of meaningfulness outside that of a self-contained expression, matrical and flashing, doesn’t it become art or pop/kitsch? If not, how come all the psychedelic dreck of the last five years in retrospect, can’t hold a candle, in terms of cosmic epiphany or plain old life energy, to Little Richard of The Heartbeats? Little Richard, via his pure white-energy raunch and total over-simplification, had the power to make people say “fuck it” and turn their backs on their own control conditioning and just go out and debauch and catch a glimpse of the violent, drunken, loving, dancing Universe.

(Lester Bangs made a similar observation about Elvis in his famous 1977 obituary.)

Tosches goes on and on in a devastating crescendo of what can’t even be called criticism and really should be called a societal-generational-cultural indictment and ends with:

So send your loot to the East Pakistani Relief Fund c/o The United Nations, but remember that you can’t be a litterbug and save mankind at the same time. But who says you should care about saving mankind in the first place? A-womp bop a-lu bomp a-womp bam boom. Cuentaselo a tu abuela.


Here’s a pic of Tosches in 1972, a year after this piece on the concert for Bangladesh. He’s on the left.

Many of the pieces included in the Reader are frankly pornographic, detailing his crazy relationships, all of which began in barrooms (as he admits), and many are legit laugh out loud funny. Sometimes it’s not even the situation that’s funny – what’s funny is how he turns a phrase. Also: he’s for grown-ups. Tosches is rated R and X. It’s so REFRESHING, particularly in a time where even grown-ups seem to prefer living in a rated-G universe, worry-warting over the language other adults use, even to describe their OWN experiences! WTF, people.

In the middle of what seems like a pedestrian topic Tosches will toss some transcendence/darkness your way.

Excerpts from The Nick Tosches Reader


“We shared, he in his erudite way and I in my unlettered fashion, a love for those ancient fragments that were the wisps of the source, the wisps of origin, the wisps of the first and truest expression of all that since has been said. And we both had dirty minds, given as much to the gutter as to the gods.”


“No ‘flower children’ they, the sinister emanation of a generation who only yesterday, it seems, were set on changing a world in the shadow of nuclear holocaust and overpopulation into a piece of utopia and love. They drop the knee of fealty before the Antichrist.”

My Utopia is being surrounded by people who distrust Utopias.


“…death-row blowjob of a down…”


“Yes, it’s an old cliche that it’s an old cliche but there’re two sides to every story.”


“…seedy Lotharios of the muse’s dowry…”



“Although I have since forsaken these more esoteric preoccupations for a life, as my dear mum once put it, ‘just fooling around and hiding behind a bottle,’ I have retained the patois of the ars arcuns for retaliative use among the intimidating spiritual hoi polloi of the outer Sephir.”

See what I mean? That’s his fingerprint. But what even IS that.


“It’s just like last year I couldn’t get out of Ogalala, Nebraska, for eleven fucking days I did everything but I couldn’t get out.”


“If you still think that existentialism is anything more than getting laid in Paris and acting twenty years older than you are …”


“…merely arcane to the leeringly heinous…”

I mean …


“I am 18, just like Alice Cooper.”



“…the fierce winds of whatchamacallit…”



“…you never know where on the river’s shores the tides of honky tonk seraphim and shot glasses will puke you up.”


“It was like necrophilia without any of the sensationalism.”

This, by the way, is about having sex with a woman when she’s menstruating.


“…arch moll of rhythm’d word”

… this on Patti Smith


“…out to recast poetry with the nighttime slut-gait of rock ‘n’ roll.”

…again on Patti Smith


“…a communique direct from the Antichrist of all that was politically correct”

… on the horrified reader response to one of his columns


“I realize now that [the Stones’] ‘Honky Tonk Woman’ was welcome detumescence for the sixties, and a surly, languid waking from the restless sleep of ideology.”



“Though I never drank when I wrote, I drank more than I wrote.”


“He could hear the garbage trucks in the distance, and he knew that dawn, the vanquisher of dark confusion, would soon come.”

“Vanquisher of dark confusion” – just tossed in there – makes it recognizably his. It’s something I would feel silly writing, because it doesn’t come from me, not really. But it DOES come from him, the deepest part of him.


“Dempsey went mad with the lust that only sadness with its wild black cawings could inspire…”

That’s my 20s and early 30s right there. “Wild black cawings” is magnificent.


“Second, lighten up on the broads. Sure, Jezebel was a floozy. But is it really necessary to have her devoured by dogs, a scene that has doubtless cost the book countless female readers? Why not give her a nervous breakdown, or a career crisis, after which she is allowed to find herself?”

… his tips to the Bible on how it could be better


“No, Elvis did not invent rock ‘n’ roll. But he was its avatar, the embodiment of its spirit and might. He was more than a star. He possessed the souls of his followers. Virgins burned for him, and boys strove to recast themselves in his image. He had charisma, in the true and Greek New Testament sense of that word, meaning, divine grace. It was that grace, that mysterious, innocent power, that raised Elvis, the singer with no song of his own, the praiser of abject mediocrity (proclaiming at the height of his fame, in 1957, that Pat Boone had “undoubtedly the finest voice out now”), from the merely mundane to the profoundly ineffable. He could have started a religion. In a way, he did.”

This from his extraordinary essay “Elvis in Death.” He says up front he was not a fan of Elvis. But he understood the power, and was fascinated by it.


“However we choose to look at Elvis Presley–as a saint, a savior, or a monstrosity, as the apotheosis of America’s fatal and garish yearning; or as the final god in the pantheon of the West–we can be sure that the likes of him will not pass this way again… One thing is certain. In an age bereft of magic, Elvis was the last great mystery, the secret of which lay unrevealed even to himself. That he failed, fatally, to comprehend that mystery gives the rest of us little hope of ever doing so. After all, the greatest and truest mysteries are those without explanations.”


I think my favorite piece in the Reader is called “Lust in the Balcony”. In it, he describes trolling the movie theatres of Jersey City – my ‘hood! – as a teenager, looking for willing girls to feel up in various balconies. That’s the set-up but the piece morphs into an all-encompassing culturally-literate and brilliantly-insightful analysis of 1960s Hollywood movies and how “salaciously pure” they were. Consider those two words together. A more accurate description of the majority of 1960s movies, particularly comedies, does not exist. As a writer, he has his cake/eats it too: we get the picture of teenage virgin Tosches aching for sex in the balcony, and we also get a very funny description of what was actually up on the screen, and how weird it was, and why he thought that weirdness was in existence. The movies represented a complete dichotomy with life on the ground as it was lived: So you’re trying to find a girl during a screening of Beach Blanket Bingo, and as he’s trolling, he knows if he strolled into Beach Blanket Bingo doing the same thing, he’d be run off the beach as a dirty nasty boy.

So it’s personal essay and cultural critique. We have his teenage perspective (“tumescence stirred the shark-skin of my adolescence” – take a second to relish those words, don’t take it for granted, nobody else has the balls to write like this), but then we have the adult Tosches, familiar with the so-called “industry”, with perspective on why the hell the movies were like that.

On Elvis movies:

In the thirteen Elvis pictures released in the years 1961 to 1965, Presley sang, danced, and (to choose a merciful word) acted his way through an endless gauntlet of young, wet female flesh–without ever once getting laid … what confused us was that the possibility of getting laid was never even intimated. It was as if there no such thing as fucking, as if all lust were slaked by a kiss.

On the “beach” movies of Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon:

Even more otherworldly in its chastity was the series of films … starring the Romeo and Juliet of all-American asexuality … Beach Party, Bikini Beach, Muscle Beach Party and Beach Blanket Bingo. There was something vaguely frightening about these spayed and gelded California beach creatures, so unlike the habitues of our own Jersey shore–something that seemed to imply that brutal desires, like beer bellies and unfiltered cigarettes, had no place in the land of happiness.

The piece is dazzling, and it is what I try to do in my own work. I think what really matters here is curiosity. Tosches is able to look back on his own innocence, and has the curiosity to go, “WTF with those MOVIES, let me put some time into thinking about it and sorting it out.” Many people never do this. Incorporating personal information into critical essays should be used sparingly, and also – you just flat out have to know how to write to pull it off. I am so bored with pieces that start off with a “here’s my personal experience as a preamble”, before launching into a long piece about being a lonely misfit and how this or that movie made you feel not so alone. And listen, I’ve written them in the past. That was the past. Since this now is THE template, I’ve stopped, or at least I choose my moments carefully. Critics promote their stuff on Twitter saying, “This is the most personal I’ve ever been in any review.” And I don’t blame them. People flock to that stuff more eagerly than they do to a piece of straight cultural critique. I do not begrudge these people their hustle, I am just pointing out a trend. Being “personal” is viewed as having the most authority, it’s beyond criticism. Okay? But … wanting something to be beyond criticism means that even “personal” becomes “safe.” A couple years ago it felt like every review of Boyhood started with a sentence along the lines of “Boyhood makes me think of warm summer days in the golden age of my childhood”… I know I’m being bitchy. Let’s present the other side, just to not be so absolute: Of course: Personal experience is important and writers need to be able to know how to access that. The best critical writing DOES come from a personal place. But when you read 30 reviews of Boyhood in a row that start the same way you realize … well you realize a couple of things.
1. This movie touched a lot of people and that’s wonderful.
2. People are clearly not reading each others’ pieces. Because … maybe try something different.
3. A lot of people DON’T know how to write personally, even if their feelings ARE deeply personal, and so what comes out is banality, cliches. They can’t help it. They’re not good enough as writers to pull off what they want to pull off. There’s probably, too, a resistance to revealing too much at the same time you want to reveal. People only want to reveal the stuff that “makes them look good” which at this current moment in time means: “I have suffered.” “I was bullied.” “I didn’t fit in.” I am NOT saying these things don’t cause pain – please don’t misunderstand – but what I AM saying is that in this current moment it doesn’t take all that much “bravery” to admit these things. What would take bravery is to say “I am fairly well-adjusted.” or “I enjoyed high school” or, worse, “I loved being high school quarterback.” Admitting THAT would be a true act of bravery. What also takes bravery is to write about mistakes you’ve made, times you’ve hurt people (I wrote about this in my monster piece on Eminem: he admits shit about himself nobody wants to admit – like, being a bad lay, for example), having ambivalent feelings about being a mother (go and read the comments sections attached to pieces like that – anyone who has anything other than “I am in a glow of bliss” responses is PILLORIED – by other women, so, ladies you’re not off the hook.). What IS brave is to “tell on yourself” … that’s something almost NO ONE does. Tell us something that DOESN’T make you look good or empowered or aspirational. I think people are hungry for THAT kind of honesty too.

So you compare those “Boyhood makes me think of my childhood” pieces to something like Tosches’ piece about copping a feel in the balcony all while wondering why the hell no one was getting laid onscreen – it’s just no contest. Granted, this is probably an unfair comparison – Tosches a master – but sometimes unfair comparisons press us on to do better, be braver, go deeper, expose MORE of ourselves, how we think, what we think.

Tosches talking about the restless energy of teenage virgin boys, being set loose in these movie palaces, is VERY MUCH connected to his thesis about the “salaciously pure” movies in the 1960s.

Another one of the pieces I love is his “dirty letters” essay, about the “dirty letters” written by famous people to their significant others. He starts off with the most famous “dirty letters” in the canon – the ones James and Nora Joyce wrote to one another for the couple of months in their lifetime together when they were separated. These letters are notorious. And … okay … dirty, maybe? … but … James and Nora were consenting adults. Maybe people do all kinds of things in bed, have you ever considered that? Maybe there are 10 appetizers for every main course? Where did all this prudery come from?

But why this dirty letters piece by Tosches is so fun is that he introduces the subject with a paragraph on Joyce’s sexy letters and then wonders: “What would it be like if we had dirty letters from different authors through history?” And Tosches then WRITES imaginary dirty letters in the style of Henry James, Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Faulkner. These fake letters were so funny I was CRYING with laughter reading them. Tosches didn’t go to college, but the piece shows how well he knows literature, how he has read all of these people and absorbed their styles and quirks, how familiar he is with all of them, their vocabularies, their backstories. You can’t write a piece like this if you are not a voracious reader, and a highly learned man.

It’s basically pornographic, and yet you have to be literate to get 95% of the jokes.

I think my favorite was Henry James’ dirty letter. It’s one of the meanest things I’ve ever read, and yet I found myself thinking, “Yeah … this’d probably be how it would go.”

Sp happy birthday, Nick Tosches, conjurer of the chthonic forces acting upon us all, Dionysus and Apollo morphed into one being, visionary and reactor, transcendent and guttural, prince of fire and air. And dirt.

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7 Responses to “Given as much to the gutter as to the gods” — Nick Tosches

  1. Eric Hanchrow says:

    > He is one of the few writers where I don’t care WHAT he’s writing about, I’m gonna read it.

    That’s how I feel about you, Ma’am.

    • sheila says:

      Eric – it took me way too long to catch up with your comment. I’m so sorry.

      Thank you so much for the kind words. I’m truly touched!

  2. Bill Wolfe says:

    If you haven’t read his piece on the Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers album, I’m confident you’d enjoy it. It’s collected in Stranded, a compilation of music essays, edited by Greil Marcus, in which a dozen or so rock critics choose their Desert Island albums.

    • sheila says:

      You know, I’ve heard about that book before – maybe you were the one who told me about it – I don’t have it – such a great idea, I’ll buy it, thank you!

      • Bill Wolfe says:

        One of the best parts of the book is the appendix, called Treasure Island, in which Marcus lists what he considers the essential rock ‘n’ roll records, both albums and singles. I’ve discovered lots of good music there, as well as enjoyed many an imaginary argument about what should or should not have been included.

  3. Sean Giere says:

    Hey Sheila, doesn’t Tosches look like Brando in that 72 photo?

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