Shake It Up: Great American Writing on Rock and Pop from Elvis to Jay Z

The Library of America series features a black-and-white photo of the author against a black background underscored by a patriotic ribbon and is as iconic as apple pie. It’s fitting that the cover of an anthology capturing the groundbreaking and rebellious 51aGahyKBAL._SX336_BO1,204,203,200_nature of rock and roll defies this convention. Inspired by Phillip Lopate’s introduction to American Movie Critics, Dettmar (English, Pomona Coll.; Gang of Four’s Entertainment!) and Lethem (A Gambler’s Anatomy; Chronic City) successfully canonize rock and pop writing as a distinctive branch of American letters. A survey more than a chronological history, this collection pulls from the multiplicity of genres embedded under the rock moniker: jazz, punk, rap, and even experimental music. As a corollary, the multitude of voices in this collection are varied and diverse—especially noteworthy in a genre historically dominated by white men. From Jessica Hopper’s deconstruction of gender politics in emo music to Kelefa Sanneh’s musings on the limitations of Jay-Z’s lyricism as poetic text, this compilation is a stark reminder that rock and pop music are often simultaneously a disdain for and reflection of the society, culture, and time period in which it is produced.