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.
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