The first line of my first review – for my bio of Jack Kerouac, Desolate Angel – was in the Boston Globe, and it started, “Dennis McNally isn’t going to like me.” Not promising. Actually, after I read it I ended up not being terribly depressed, because it wasn’t a review of my book, it was a review of Jack Kerouac – and the lady hated him.
That turned out to be true of most of my reviews for the Kerouac book – they didn’t review my book, they reviewed Kerouac. Some hated him, and lots of people loved him, but I rarely felt as though I’d gotten a serious reading.
And exactly the same thing happened with the Grateful Dead book. Since I’ve written about the margins of mainstream America, I seemed to be condemned to be reviewed for my subject choice and not for what I did with it.
Things seem to be changing. Just got my first review for On Highway 61. It’s by Jonah Raskin, who recently retired from teaching at Sonoma State and wrote excellent books about Abbie Hoffman (For the Hell of It) and Allen Ginsberg (American Scream). It’s in The Rag Blog. Here you go:
Jonah’s quite kind – but I swear the reason I really like this review is because he actually understands where I’m coming from as a historian. Thanks, Jonah!