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The Nick Tosches Reader

The Nick Tosches Reader

by Nick Tosches

Newsday has said that Nick Tosches "casts brilliant black light." The San Diego Reader has said that "Tosches's best sentences uncoil like rattlesnakes and strike with a venom that spreads poison through all the little Sunday-school ideas you've held dear." And Rolling Stone has said that "Tosches can write like a wild rockabilly raveup. He


Newsday has said that Nick Tosches "casts brilliant black light." The San Diego Reader has said that "Tosches's best sentences uncoil like rattlesnakes and strike with a venom that spreads poison through all the little Sunday-school ideas you've held dear." And Rolling Stone has said that "Tosches can write like a wild rockabilly raveup. He can be elegant as a slow blues." The Nick Tosches Reader is the author's own selection of his best work over the past thirty years, including fiction, poetry, interviews, rock writing, investigative journalism, and criticism. First published in major magazines, obscure underground periodicals, and his own best-selling books, many of these selections deal with rock 'n' roll and cultural icons—but there are also pieces on everything from William Faulkner to organized crime to heavyweight boxing, including the Vanity Fair feature that gave rise to Tosches's major new book on Sonny Liston, published by Little, Brown. Here is "a unique and darkly impressionistic cultural history" of the last three decades as only Nick Tosches could write it.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

New York Times Book Review, 7/15/10
“If you want to learn about the power and dangers of rock ’n’ roll, check out Mary Gaitskill’s incomparable novel Veronica or Marianne Faithfull’s cackling memoir or The Nick Tosches Reader.”

Sky Magazine
The writing is intense, truculent, often inspired.
New York Press
[Tosches] has accomplished that rare coup - becoming a rock critic with legitimate literary respectability.
LA Weekly
In the nearly 600 pages of The Nick Tosches Reader, one discovers an adaptable writer who is able to find the perfect pitch, tone, and authorial voice to address his subject.
Toronto Globe and Mail
...guaranteed to keep the noses of rock-crit nerds...pressed to the page all summer long.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Tosches is best known for his 100-proof biographies of Dean Martin and Jerry Lee Lewis, and his beautifully trenchant life of the prize-fighter Sonny Liston (see review above) will arrive to the timely accompaniment of this collection from his diverse writing career, showing Tosches to be more than a gifted, dogged chronicler of flawed public figures. The Reader contains more than 100 pieces, including excerpts from the author's nonfiction, his two novels (Cut Numbers, Trinities), dozens of magazine pieces that appeared in such publications as Rolling Stone, Esquire and Vanity Fair (to which Tosches is now a contributing editor) and riffs on Charles Olson's Maximus Poems, Sinatra's voice, Miles Davis's horn, Carly Simon's mouth and "The Singer Madonna Arraigned by the Ghost of Pope Alexander VI." While these pieces, taken together, show the arc of a successful career, they also give a glimpse of a period in magazine writing that is long gone, in which hell-bent editors such as Lester Bangs would assign a review of a new album and the reviewer could simply talk about how the packaging felt in his hands. Tosches, early in his career, paid his bills with small fees garnered as a music critic, and this lively era of no-holds-barred journalism (later to be dubbed "New") is on raunchy display here. Creem asked Tosches to interview Patti Smith, and the rock-poet says, "Hell, Nick, you know me. Just make it up." And he does. In Rock magazine, he reviewed an album that never existed ("It is indeed quite difficult to approach this album with the pedestrian sensibilities that suffice for most musical creations"). The term "pedestrian" will never be applied to Tosches--neither in his interests nor his prose style. In this carefully constructed collection, for which Tosches provides contextual links and anecdotes about the composition of each piece, readers will get a complex and satisfying portrait not only of a time but of a deeply reflective and probing writer who, beneath the din of music and gangsters and poseurs, hears what he calls "the wisdom and power of silence and wind." (Apr.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Library Journal
Best known for his classic Jerry Lee Lewis biography, Hellfire, Tosches has compiled his book and record reviews, articles, rock interviews, and other works that have appeared in magazines (under- and overground) in the last 30 years. While organizing this anthology-of-sorts, he also wrote funny and insightful introductions to each piece. The best parts are the short fiction and personal essays, which are often overtly sexual and hubristic but written with an Olympian mastery of language--it's like reading Bukowski by way of Tennyson. The resulting work would, in a just world, make Tosches the patron saint of literate, disaffected male college students with an ear for caustic, honest work. The music writings and book reviews are ultimately esoteric but help forge this collection into a fascinating document of New York City subculture and the dissipation of the Altamont generation. Recommended for larger social science collections.--Colin Carlson, New York Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\

Product Details

Da Capo Press
Publication date:
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6.08(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.30(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

I was eighteen or nineteen years old, working days at the Lovable Underwear Company, when I came to know the poet Ed Sanders. Ed, who twenty years later would win an American Book Award for his poetry, was then the ringleader of the notorious band The Fugs, and he also ran the Peace Eye bookstore, which at that time was on Avenue A.

    Ed had a degree in classical languages, and could read fluently in their own Greek and Latin those ancient poets that I could only understand through the gauze of translation. I had tried to teach myself Greek from the two volumes of A Reading Course in Homeric Greek that I had robbed from a divinity student a few years before, and I had taken Latin in high school; but it was beyond me to truly delve the beauties and powers of the poetry of those tongues, as Ed could. He had even studied Egyptian hieroglyphics.

    We shared, he in his erudite way and I in my unlettered fashion, a love for those ancient fragments that were the wisps of the source, the wisps of origin, the wisps of the first and truest expression of all that since had been said. And we both had dirty minds, given as much to the gutter as to the gods.

    The Lower East Side was a different place back then. It was still a neighborhood. East Thirteenth Street was still known as the Street of Silence, a name I would bestow on another Mafia stronghold, Sullivan Street, in my novel Cut Numbers. The joints were still joints. We drank a lot in those joints.

    Ed was a great guy. He was about ten years older than I, and was the first real poet to whom I showed my poetry. "Hell, man," he told me, "you're a fucking poet." As I doubt he ever realized he was my first mentor, so I doubt he ever realized what a shove forward, what a turning point, this was for me.

    That poem, which bore the title "Still/Life," and which I later invoked in my novel Trinities, is long gone. Fragments of it follow.


A blunt shock to find your life in episodes on a Mochican vase
& the cool white tile
emergency room, 3 AM

Excerpted from THE NICK TOSCHES READER by Nick Tosches. Copyright © 2000 by Nick Tosches, Inc.. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Meet the Author

Nick Tosches is the author of Hellfire, Unsung Heroes of Rock 'n' Roll, Power on Earth, Cut Numbers, Dino, and Trinities.

Brief Biography

New York, New York
Date of Birth:
Place of Birth:
Newark, New Jersey
High school

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