Lucking Out by James Wolcott
My Life Getting Down and Semi-Dirty in the Seventies

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Synopsis

"How lucky I was, arriving in New York just as everything was about to go to hell.”

That would be in the autumn of 1972, when a very young and green James Wolcott arrived from Maryland, full of literary dreams, equipped with a letter of introduction from Norman Mailer, and having no idea what was about to hit him. Landing at a time of accelerating municipal squalor and, paradoxically, gathering cultural energy in all spheres as “Downtown” became a category of art and life unto itself, he embarked upon his sentimental education, seventies New York style.

This portrait of a critic as a young man is also a rollicking, acutely observant portrait of a legendary time and place. Wolcott was taken up by fabled film critic Pauline Kael as one of her “Paulettes” and witnessed the immensely vital film culture of the period. He became an early observer-participant in the nascent punk scene at CBGB, mixing with Patti Smith, Lester Bangs, and Tom Verlaine. As a Village Voice writer he got an eyeful of the literary scene when such giants as Mailer, Gore Vidal, and George Plimpton strode the earth, and writing really mattered.

A beguiling mixture of Kafka Was the Rage and Please Kill Me, this memoir is a sharp-eyed rendering, at once intimate and shrewdly distanced, of a fabled milieu captured just before it slips into myth. Mixing grit and glitter in just the right propor­tions, suffused with affection for the talented and sometimes half-crazed denizens of the scene, it will make readers long for a time when you really could get mugged around here.

BONUS MATERIAL: This ebook includes an excerpt from James Wolcott's Critical Mass.
 

About James Wolcott

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Wolcott is the literary critic for Vanity Fair. He is also been a staff writer at the Village Voice, Esquire, Harper's, and The New Yorker.
 
Published October 25, 2011 by Anchor. 274 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Education & Reference. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Lucking Out

Kirkus Reviews

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For example, the section entitled “Bodily Contact” weaves personal encounters into a critique of “Me Decade” sexual mores, drawing on Bob Fosse films, the seedy atmosphere of pre–tourist friendly Times Square, the emerging gay-rights movement and concerns about the dark side of the pick-up cultur...

Sep 01 2011 | Read Full Review of Lucking Out: My Life Getting ...

The New York Times

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At the imperial zenith of her career, Pauline Kael labeled a film “the most virtuoso example of sophisticated kaleidoscopic farce that American moviemakers have ever come up with.” This was in the midst of the 1970s, a period that Kael’s sharpest protégé, James Wolcott, now calls “the feudal age ...

Oct 26 2011 | Read Full Review of Lucking Out: My Life Getting ...

The New York Times

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James Wolcott arrived in New York “as everything was about to go to hell.”

Nov 03 2011 | Read Full Review of Lucking Out: My Life Getting ...

Publishers Weekly

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While his commentary on the cultural commentary sags, Wolcott’s take on New York’s culture itself, from schlubby porn impresarios to diaphanous ballerinas, is entertaining and evocative.

Aug 08 2011 | Read Full Review of Lucking Out: My Life Getting ...

BC Books

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After this foray into punk, Wolcott rather surprisingly spends the next part of his story talking about porn in New York at that time.

Dec 18 2012 | Read Full Review of Lucking Out: My Life Getting ...

BC Books

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The second part, about the punk scene, is unfortunately quite short, For most readers outside of New York City, or who were not old enough to experience '70s culture, this will probably be the most consistently interesting part of the book, since Patti Smith, The Ramones, and other inhabitants of...

Dec 18 2012 | Read Full Review of Lucking Out: My Life Getting ...

New York Journal of Books

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“Lucking Out is a must-read for anyone interested in New York at its most lurid. Moreover, it succeeds in chronicling the struggles of a young writer and the development of a formidable critical voice. . . . so utterly captivating . . .”

Oct 25 2011 | Read Full Review of Lucking Out: My Life Getting ...

AV Club

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It wasn’t a nightly occurrence, but it happened often enough to keep you limber.” Even better is when he compares the city’s two great scuzz industries: “Punk was rooted in its opposition to pretension, whereas porn adopted pretension as soon as it broke out of the basement and sought respectabil...

Nov 16 2011 | Read Full Review of Lucking Out: My Life Getting ...

Los Angeles Times

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New voices were declaring themselves, shouting above the mangy din, and Wolcott had a front-row seat as a rock and TV critic at the Voice, where Mailer, one of the paper's founders, had recommended him for a job after approving of a college newspaper article Wolcott had written on Mailer's infamo...

Dec 01 2011 | Read Full Review of Lucking Out: My Life Getting ...

San Francisco Chronicle

"How lucky I was, arriving in New York just as everything was about to go to hell," James Wolcott writes in "Lucking Out," his surprisingly engaging memoir of a bygone literary and journalistic era.

Oct 30 2011 | Read Full Review of Lucking Out: My Life Getting ...

Denver Post

The film "Looking for Mr. Goodbar" — based on the premise that the wages of a casual pickup is death — was "directed by Richard Brooks as if he were carrying a wooden cross and crying 'Repent.' " Really, Wolcott seems inca pable of writing a tired sentence.

Jan 25 2012 | Read Full Review of Lucking Out: My Life Getting ...

Seattle PI

In Lucking Out he writes about his observations of life in New York City in the 1970's, when he was a young writer for the Village Voice and other important New York magazines.

Dec 18 2012 | Read Full Review of Lucking Out: My Life Getting ...

Bookmarks Magazine

Mixing grit and glitter in just the right propor­tions, suffused with affection for the talented and sometimes half-crazed denizens of the scene, it will make readers long for a time when you really could get mugged around here.

Nov 06 2011 | Read Full Review of Lucking Out: My Life Getting ...

Time Out New York

Lucking Out: My Life Getting Down and Semi-Dirty in Seventies New York charts Vanity Fair media critic-blogger James Wolcott's serendipity-fed growth from college dropout to professional writer: A blossoming brought on by the squalor-ridden fecundity of 1970s New York.

Oct 26 2011 | Read Full Review of Lucking Out: My Life Getting ...

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