by carl wilson

Ellen Willis

ELLENWILLIS.jpg

A model of the culture (and music) writer as social critic, and much more besides, Ellen Willis died yesterday at age 64 of lung cancer. Little I could say here in haste could do her justice, but the way that she balanced her insistence on pleasure and freedom with her feminist vigilance on fairness and frankness, her suspicion of all paternalisms (especially of the state variety), and her attention to the detail of the resulting complexity, remain exemplary.

There's a starting point here, but her best work is in her published collections of essays. (The best of which, Beginning to See the Light, seems sadly to be out of print. Hopefully someone will correct that now.)

I'm sure there will be many eloquent testimonials in the coming days from those who lived, worked, thought and struggled alongside her, as well as the many people she inspired.

| Posted by zoilus on Friday, November 10 at 6:33 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (3)

 

COMMENTS

Thanks so much for that, Robin. Also of note is the brief tribute that Sasha Frere-Jones wrote for this week's New Yorker:

http://www.newyorker.com/online/content/articles/061120on_onlineonly02

Posted by zoilus on November 14, 2006 1:28 PM

 

 

This is what I wrote on my blog:
Ellen Willis died last week at the age of 64, from lung cancer. She was a feminist writer and social critic who wrote for a long time for the New York Review of Books and The Nation. However, I remember her as the rock music critic for the New Yorker in the late 60's and early '70's, before there was any serious rock criticism to speak of in mainstream journalism, and I was desperate to read anything I could find about music.
Ellen Willis turned me on to, among others, Big Star (long before they became critical faves) and Five Dollar Shoes, a band that created one of my top-five never-gonna-be-released-on-cd-unless-I-do-it lps.
At a time when most rock criticism seemed like it was written by ten year olds for ten year olds, Willis never patronized. She took the music seriously, she had good taste, and her writing was strong enough to alongside that of Pauline Kael, Roger Angell and John McPhee.

Posted by Robin Hall on November 14, 2006 1:00 PM

 

 

awful news! had no idea she was ill.

like you said -- great feminist social critic -- AND, one of the most influential rock critics ever, basically inventing the "persona studies" strand of rock criticism way back in, what was it, '68?

damn.

Posted by john on November 10, 2006 7:50 PM

 

 

 

Zoilus by Carl Wilson