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Fact & Fiction: Carola Dibbell and Robert Christgau

Thursday March 19, 2015
07:00 pm

Tags: Event

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Photo Credit: Nina Christgau (for Robert Christgau)

We were joined by writers Robert Christgau and Carola Dibbell, a husband and wife who both had new books out this spring. The two discussed Carola's debut novel The Only Ones and Robert's memoir Going Into The City. 

 

About The Only Ones

Wandering a post-pandemic world where she is strangely immune to a succession of
killer diseases, Inez Fardo is hired to provide genetic material to a wealthy, grief-stricken mother. This experimental work is policed by a hazy network of governmental ethics bureaus and threatened by the Knights of Life, religious zealots who raze the farms where much of the work is done.

 

When the mother backs out at the last minute, Inez is left responsible for the product: a baby girl. With a stylish voice and sly commentary on class, politics, and the complexities of reproductive technology, The Only Ones asks tough questions about who has the right to create life and how. But at its core is a time-old story, tender and iconic, funny and heartbreaking, of how much we love our children, however they come.

 

About Going Into The City

When a young rock critic suggested to Robert Christgau that he write a memoir, the famously contentious critic’s initial response was, “Why?” Answer: “Because you were there.” And there he was. Christgau has borne witness to some of the greatest cultural shifts and events of the last half century, and practically invented the role of pop music critic along the way. In Going Into The City: Portrait of a Critic as a Young Man, Christgau looks back at not just his life and the history he witnessed, but the music, books, and films that changed him and the smart women who helped him understand and feel both the history and the art.

 

A lifelong New Yorker, Christgau has been writing about pop culture since he was twelve and getting paid for it since he was twenty-two, covering rock for Esquire in its heyday and personifying the music beat at the Village Voice for over three decades. Christgau listened to Alan Freed shout the praises of rock and roll before Elvis, settled east of Avenue B forty years before it was cool, witnessed Monterey and Woodstock and Chicago '68 and the first abortion speak-out. He’s caught Coltrane in the East Village, Muddy Waters in Chicago, Otis Redding at the Apollo, the Dead in the Haight, Janis Joplin at the Fillmore, the Rolling Stones at the Garden, the Clash in Leeds, Grandmaster Flash in Times Square, and every punk band you can think of at CBGB.


Christgau chronicled many of the key cultural shifts of the last half century and revolutionized the cultural status of the music critic in the process. Going Into The City is a look back at the upbringing that grounded him, the history that transformed him, and all the art that showed him the way. Like Alfred Kazin’s A Walker in the City, E.B. White’s Here Is New York, Joseph Mitchell’s Up in the Old Hotel, and Patti Smith’s Just Kids, it is a loving portrait of a lost New York. It’s an homage to the city of Christgau’s youth from Queens to the Lower East Side—a city that exists mostly in memory today. And it’s a love story about the Greenwich Village girl, now his wife of forty years, who roamed this realm of urban possibility with him.

 

Carola Dibbell has published fiction in Paris Review, The New Yorker, Fence, and Black Clock. Her writing on books, film, children's media, and especially music appeared frequently in the Village Voice at a time when she was one of the few women writing rock criticism. Her music writing is included in Rock She Wrote (eds. Evelyn McDonnell, Ann Powers) and Trouble Girls: The Rolling Stone Book of Women in Rock (ed. Barbara O'Dair). She lives in New York with her husband, the critic Robert Christgau, and their daughter.

 

Robert Christgau is a rock critic best known for his 35 years with The Village Voice, where he was a columnist from 1969 to 1972 and an editor and chief popular music critic from 1974 until 2006. The author of three books based on his Consumer Guide columns and the essay collections Any Old Way You Choose It and Grown Up All Wrong, Christgau has won fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Arts Journalism Program, and Princeton University and is a Visiting Arts Professor at NYU’s Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music. He writes for Billboard, Cuepoint/Medium, and Barnes & Noble Review and is a contributing critic at NPR’s All Things Considered.