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

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9781565845336: When the Kissing Had to Stop: Cult Studs, Khmer Newts, Langley Spooks, Techno-Greeks, Video Drones, Author Gods, Serial Killers, Vampire Media, Allen Sperm-Suckers, Satanic therapi
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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.


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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

About the Author:

John Leonard (1939–2008) is the author of The Last Innocent White Man in America and Smoke and Mirrors (both published by The New Press). He was editor of the New York Times Book Review, literary co-editor of The Nation, and now appeared weekly on CBS Sunday Morning and in New York.

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