Dan Kois was a founding editor of Vulture, New York magazine’s culture and entertainment blog, and is now a contributing writer to Vulture and to New York. He’s also writing a 33 1/3 book, which will not be as good as Carl Wilson’s.
In a year during which I was, at least theoretically, writing my own book for Continuum’s 33 1/3 series of music criticism books on individual albums, to read Carl Wilson’s 33 1/3 book on Celine Dion, Let’s Talk About Love: A Journey to the End of Taste, was to be both inspired and filled with despair. Inspired because Wilson’s philosophical inquiry into love and hate, authenticity and poseurdom, stretched the boundaries of what a simple book of music criticism could do, making me passionately interested in the work and world of a singer I previously didn’t care about in the slightest. Filled with despair because no matter how hard I work, my 33 1/3 book will never be as good as Carl Wilson’s is.
Using Dion’s most popular album – you know, the one with that song from Titanic on it, the one with the Celtic pipes or whatever – as a lens, Wilson investigates why he loves the music he does, and tries to learn to love (or at least appreciate) music he’s previously hated. Wilson raises, and thoughtfully addresses, a host of questions about fandom, hipsterhood, and sheer, unabashed love by interviewing Dion fans, taking in a Dion concert, and listening over and over again to her music. It’s the best kind of criticism: Funny, creative, and willing to take a good hard look not only at the work in question but at the critic himself.