I'm a sucker for reading about NYC in the 70s. It's an endlessly fascinating era. The dirt, the crime, the art, and the culture have an amazing allure. That fascination drew me to James Wolcott's memoir, Lucking Out. Wolcott cut his teeth in the art and culture world of New York City in the 70s. He got a break from Norman Mailer, wrote for the Village Voice, was part of Pauline Kael’s inner circle, and was on the ground floor of the CBGB universe. Wolcott also turns his attention to the sleazoid universe of Times Square before falling in love with the ballet.
The book is most exciting as Wolcott recounts his time with Kael, going to press screenings of countless seminal films from the 70s. His view into Kael’s universe is worth the price of admission for the book alone. But from that point forward, Lucking Out covers material already covered in greater depth in other NY 70s memoirs/scene overviews. If you’ve already read Please Kill Me, Just Kids, Love Goes To Buildings On Fire, Tales of Time Square, The Other Hollywood, then you are already pretty familiar with the material covered here. Maybe I'm hitting my saturation point with hearing about this era.
At a personal level, I've definitely reached my saturation point on the glorification of Patti Smith. Don't get me wrong, I love Patti Smith. I love her book. I love her music. I love what she stands for. But I don’t need to hear anyone else deify her in print. I'm over it.
As far as Lucking Out goes, not a bad read, but not a mind-blower.