The Essential Ellen Willis


Out of the Vinyl Deeps, published in 2011, introduced a new generation to the incisive, witty, and merciless voice of Ellen Willis through her pioneering rock music criticism. In the years that followed, Willis’s daring insights went beyond popular music, taking on such issues as pornography, religion, feminism, war, and drugs.

The Essential Ellen Willis gathers writings that span forty years and are both deeply engaged with the times in which they were first published and yet ...

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The Essential Ellen Willis

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Out of the Vinyl Deeps, published in 2011, introduced a new generation to the incisive, witty, and merciless voice of Ellen Willis through her pioneering rock music criticism. In the years that followed, Willis’s daring insights went beyond popular music, taking on such issues as pornography, religion, feminism, war, and drugs.

The Essential Ellen Willis gathers writings that span forty years and are both deeply engaged with the times in which they were first published and yet remain fresh and relevant amid today’s seemingly intractable political and cultural battles. Whether addressing the women’s movement, sex and abortion, race and class, or war and terrorism, Willis brought to each a distinctive attitude—passionate yet ironic, clear-sighted yet hopeful.

Offering a compelling and cohesive narrative of Willis’s liberationist “transcendence politics,” the essays—among them previously unpublished and uncollected pieces—are organized by decade from the 1960s to the 2000s, with each section introduced by young writers who share Willis’s intellectual bravery, curiosity, and lucidity: Irin Carmon, Spencer Ackerman, Cord Jefferson, Ann Friedman, and Sara Marcus. The Essential Ellen Willis concludes with excerpts from Willis’s unfinished book about politics and the cultural unconscious, introduced by her longtime partner, Stanley Aronowitz. An invaluable reckoning of American society since the 1960s, this volume is a testament to an iconoclastic and fiercely original voice.

2014 National Book Critics Circle Award Winner for Criticism

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Carlene Bauer
No one sounded like Willis then, and no one sounds like her now: wry, playful, humble, genuinely searching, intellectually formidable…Each sentence in this collection bears the mark of a writer haunted by the notion that without a constant search for clarity on what mattered most to her, she would never realize the life—or love, or society—she hoped for. If we persist in thinking that the members of her generation deceived themselves when they believed they were beginning to see the light, we deserve every bit of darkness that is blinding us now. For those of us who would rather not get fooled again, we have these 513 pages as a guide.
From the Publisher
"There’s only one word for Ellen Willis’s work—exhilarating! Her essays combine passion and moral clarity, anger and a steady commitment to having fun. Best of all, she channels the secret ecstatic undercurrents of late twentieth-century American popular culture, which we need now more than ever. This anthology is espresso for the feminist soul." —Barbara Ehrenreich
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780816681211
  • Publisher: University of Minnesota Press
  • Publication date: 5/1/2014
  • Pages: 536
  • Sales rank: 266,128
  • Product dimensions: 9.00 (w) x 6.10 (h) x 1.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Ellen Willis (1941-2006) was the first rock critic for the New Yorker, an editor and columnist at the Village Voice, and cofounder of the radical feminist group Redstockings. Her writing appeared in numerous publications, including Rolling Stone, the New York Times, and the Nation. She established the Cultural Reporting and Criticism program at New York University and wrote Beginning to See the Light and No More Nice Girls as well as Don’t Think, Smile! Her award-winning posthumous collection of rock criticism, Out of the Vinyl Deeps: Ellen Willis on Rock Music, was published in 2011 by the University of Minnesota Press.

Nona Willis Aronowitz is a journalist and editor. She is a cofounder of Tomorrow magazine, and a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, coauthor of Girldrive: Criss-crossing America, Redefining Feminism, and editor of Out of the Vinyl Deeps: Ellen Willis on Rock Music.

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Table of Contents


Introduction: Transcendence Nona Willis Aronowitz

The Sixties: Up from Radicalism

Introduction Sara Marcus

Up from Radicalism: A Feminist Journal (US Magazine, 1969)

Dylan (Cheetah, 1967)

The Cultural Revolution Saved from Drowning (The New Yorker, September 1969)

Women and the Myth of Consumerism (Ramparts, 1970)

Talk of the Town: Hearing (The New Yorker, February 1969)

The Seventies: Exile on Main Street

Introduction Irin Carmon

Beginning to See the Light (Village Voice, 1977)

Janis Joplin (Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock ’n’ Roll, 1980)

Classical and Baroque Sex in Everyday Life (Village Voice, May 1979)

Memoirs of a Non-Prom Queen (Rolling Stone, August 1976)

The Trial of Arline Hunt (Rolling Stone, 1975)

Abortion: Is a Woman a Person? (Village Voice, March and April 1979)

Abortion Backlash: Women Lose (Rolling Stone, November 1977)

Sexual Counterrevolution I (Rolling Stone, March 1977)

Feminism, Moralism, and Pornography (Village Voice, October and November 1979)

The Family: Love It or Leave It (Village Voice, September 1979)

Tom Wolfe’s Failed Optimism (Village Voice, 1977)

The Velvet Underground (Stranded, by Greil Marcus, 1979)

Next Year in Jerusalem (Rolling Stone, April 1977)

The Eighties: Coming Down Again

Introduction Ann Friedman

Toward a Feminist Sexual Revolution (Social Text, Fall 1982)

Lust Horizons: Is the Women’s Movement Pro-Sex? (Village Voice, June 1981)

The Last Unmarried Person in America (Village Voice, July 1981)

Teenage Sex: A Modesty Proposal (Village Voice, October 1986)

Sisters under the Skin? Confronting Race and Sex (Village Voice Literary Supplement, June 1982)

Radical Feminism and Feminist Radicalism (Social Text, Summer 1984)

Escape from New York (Village Voice, July 1981)

Coming Down Again: After the Age of Excess (Village Voice, January 1989)

The Drug War: From Vision to Vice (Village Voice, April 1986)

The Drug War: Hell No, I Won’t Go (Village Voice, September 1989)

Handle with Care: We Need a Child-Rearing Movement (Village Voice, July 1986)

To Emma, with Love (Village Voice, December 1989)

The Nineties: Decade of Denial

Introduction Cord Jefferson

Selections from Decade of Denial (Don’t Think, Smile!, 2000)

Ending Poor People As We Know Them (Village Voice, December 1994)

What We Don’t Talk about When We Talk about The Bell Curve (Don’t Think, Smile!, 2000)

Rodney King’s Revenge (Don’t Think, Smile!, 2000)

Million Man Mirage (Village Voice, November 1995)

Monica and Barbara and Primal Concerns (The New York Times, March 1999)

Villains and Victims (Don’t Think, Smile!, 2000)

’Tis Pity He’s a Whore (Don’t Think, Smile!, 2000)

Is Motherhood Moonlighting? (Newsday, March 1991)

Say It Loud: Out of Wedlock and Proud (Newsday, February 1994)

Bring in the Noise (The Nation, April 1996)

Intellectual Work in the Culture of Austerity (Don’t Think, Smile!, 2000)

The Aughts: Our Politics, Ourselves

Introduction Spencer Ackerman

The Democrats and Left Masochism (New Politics, Summer 2001)

Why I’m Not for Peace (Radical Society, April 2002)

Confronting the Contradictions (Dissent, Summer 2003)

The Mass Psychology of Terrorism (Implicating Empire, edited by Stanley Aronowitz, Heather Gautney, and Clyde W. Barrow, 2003)

Bringing the Holy War Home (The Nation, November 2001)

Dreaming of War (The Nation, September 2001)

Freedom from Religion (The Nation, February 2001)

Our Mobsters, Ourselves (The Nation, March 2001)

Is There Still a Jewish Question?: Why I’m an Anti-Anti-Zionist (Wrestling with Zion, edited by Tony Kushner and Alisa Solomon, 2003)

Ghosts, Fantasies, and Hope (Dissent, Fall 2005)

Escape from Freedom: What’s the Matter with Tom Frank? (And the Lefties Who Love Him) (Situations, 2006)

Three Elegies for Susan Sontag (New Politics, Summer 2005)

Coda: Selections from “The Cultural Unconscious in American Politics: Why We Need a Freudian Left” ?

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