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When the Kissing Had to Stop: Cult Studs, Khmer Newts, Langley Spooks, Techno-Geeks, Video Drones, Author Gods, Serial Killers, Vampire Media, Alien Sperm-Suckers, Satanic therapis

Leonard, John Author

9781565846432: When the Kissing Had to Stop: Cult Studs, Khmer Newts, Langley Spooks, Techno-Geeks, Video Drones, Author Gods, Serial Killers, Vampire Media, Alien Sperm-Suckers, Satanic therapis

One of the Voice Literary Supplement's "25 Favorites," the acclaimed critic's essays on contemporary literature and pop culture, now in paperback. Leading literary critic John Leonard is "the fastest wit in the East" ( The New York Times Book Review) and a master at decoding the fears and longings that animate our popular culture. He is at his strongest in these "highly informed and cogently argued" ( Publishers Weekly) essays on the best new literature of today and what it tells us about America now. When the Kissing Had to Stop shows how our great novelists and essayists, from Don DeLillo to Toni Morrison, can help us find some sense and sanity amid the dull roar of tabloids, talk shows, and the Disneyfication of everything. Chosen as one of the Voice Literary Supplement's "25 Favorites of 1999," When the Kissing Had to Stop is an exhilarating ride into the ferocious intellect of a literary gourmand.

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Leading literary critic John Leonard is a master at decoding the fears and longings that animate our popular culture. When the Kissing Had to Stop is Leonard at his best, with his reflections on the best new literature of today and what it can tell us about America now.


The conspiracies and fears fostered by the Cold War continue to poison our national psyche. New enemies, real or imagined, have fostered subcultures of fantasy and paranoia, and vertiginous proclamations of doom and transformation. Leonard shows how our great novelists and essayists can help us to find some sense and sanity amid the dull roar of tabloids, talk shows, and the Disneyfication of everything.


Review:

When John Leonard says he's going to "use a nifty novel, Philip Kerr's A Philosophical Investigation, as an excuse to talk about everything else under the fascistic sun," he means it, as a review of a futuristic thriller turns into a grand tour of modern culture, with stops to look at (among other things) the history of serial killers, Weimar Germany, E.O. Wilson's theories of sociobiology, the life of Ludwig Wittgenstein, the roots of psychoanalysis, a 4th-century woman mathematician, and Copenhagen's paltry commemoration of Soren Kierkegaard. In these essays, gathered from various publications (mostly The Nation), Leonard takes on everything from Toni Morrison to the X-Files movie in freewheeling, energetic style. Reading cultural criticism hasn't been this much fun since Lester Bangs was on the scene. When the Kissing Had to Stop is probably best suited for periodic dipping rather than a straight-through reading, because it is possible to overdose on the massive amounts of cultural literacy crammed into Leonard's prose. But who could resist the rough charms of a man who notes, in the middle of reviewing Bret Easton Ellis, "I read this stuff so you don't have to"? --Ron Hogan

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