Tom Carson

Tom Carson won two National Magazine Awards during his stint as Esquire's "Screen" columnist and has been nominated twice more as GQ's movie reviewer. Formerly a staff writer at LA Weekly and The Village Voice, he is the author of Gilligan's Wake (a New York Times Notable Book of the Year for 2003) and Daisy Buchanan's Daughter.

Recent Articles

Coming to Dinner at Clooney's?

(AP Photo/Jonathan Short)
As you may have heard, Michelle Obama recently invited me to have dinner with George Clooney. And her own hubby too, of course—not that I think Barack really wants to hear my two cents about NDAA. As it happens, I know already that Clooney doesn't have a whole hell of a lot of use for my advice about his acting career. Pretty charming invite, though. Here's what FLOTUS wrote, in an email subject-lined "A Little Fun": "Thomas [she always calls me that, like a stern middle-school teacher. Does The Mich know how to tap my fantasies, or what?] — "Barack and I know how hard so many of you are working on this campaign—and we're grateful for it. "But sometimes you just need to have a little fun, too . . ." Followed by a nudge to make a "grassroots donation" if I want a chance to chow down with the President chez George on May 10. Amount unspecified, though I gather $3 is the minimum. Not to boast, but I've dropped more than that in Vegas a few times. The problem was that the menu was also...

Levon Helm's Last Waltz

Where does rock and roll stand after the death of the great Band drummer?

(AP Photo/Richard Drew)
Except, possibly, to his onetime musical cohort Robbie Robertson—who may be glumly realizing that people will be unlikely to get this choked up when he passes—the outpouring of online love for ex-Band drummer Levon Helm, who died last Thursday after a 14-year battle with cancer, was no surprise. Even so, I'd have bet anything my own mourning would stay on the remote side. Live and learn. Calling myself only a very occasional fan of the Band would be an understatement. True, they were one of the first acts I saw live back in the Pleistocene era—with Aerosmith opening for them, in hindsight the night's most piquant joke. But they were never renowned for fireworks in concert, and their show was pretty dull. I still think the one and only Greil Marcus should have pumped up Creedence Clearwater Revival or the Grateful Dead instead of the Band in Mystery Train. Among that landmark book's four major topics—Elvis, Sly Stone, and Randy Newman were Marcus's other "inheritors"—there can't be...

There's No Politics Like Show Politics

You'll have a better time watching Veep if you don't expect the show to tell you much about the real or even "real" Washington.

(AP Photo/Matt Sayles, file)
Brought to us by The Thick of It and In The Loop creator Armando Ianucci and starring Julia-Louis Dreyfus as ditzy, vainglorious Vice President Selina Meyer, Veep , which premieres Sunday, is HBO's bid to break TV's long-standing jinx on shows about politics. And ... jinx, you ask? Hey, bub, what about The West Wing ? That's just it. The hat trick of The West Wing—which was at its worst and least convincing, you may recall, when obliged to gingerly dramatize Jed Bartlet's re-election campaign—was that it wasn't about politics at all. Certainly not in that greasy-pole way Disraeli told us about and that Robert A. Caro, whatever his frighteningly humorless virtues, fails to enjoy. With nary a sleazy careerist in sight (power for power's sake, ugh) The West Wing was about governance, something altogether loftier and more selfless in Aaron Sorkin's civics-infatuated imagination. Despite its argot-happy, hallway-trotting D.C. trappings, the series was basically a high-minded medical drama...

The Nuclear Politics of a Poem

A look at the poem that led the Israeli government to declare Gunter Grass a persona non grata.

(AP Photo/Fritz Reiss)
As you may have read in last Sunday's New York Times , the government of Israel has declared German Nobel laureate Gunter Grass persona non grata because of a poem. True, it's a pretty lousy poem: "What Must Be Said," it's called, and that "Must" tells old Grass hands that it's musty Gunter Gasbag time. But literary criticism has never been a big priority for Benjamin Netanyahu, who followed up his Interior Ministry's PNG announcement with his own condemnation of Grass: "Shameful." The big deal, you see, was that the 84-year-old author of The Tin Drum had denounced Israel for the first time in his l-o-o-n-g career as postwar Germany's obstreperously eloquent Jiminy Cricket. That's how folks used to talk about him, anyhow: "Much of what is active conscience in the Germany of Krupp and the Munich beer halls lies in this man's ribald keeping," critic George Steiner—not a man to shrug Hitler off—lauded Grass's Dog Years back in the 1960s. I must say I miss the days when paperback...

To Thine Own Self Be Hip

A critic learns to stop worrying and love the music.

(Flickr/Highline Ballroom)
Nostalgia for my bygone days as CBGB and Max's Kansas City plankton definitely isn't my thing. Some people just don't do youth very well, and it turns out I'm much better suited to mimicking Polonius—"to thine own self be hip," more or less, which is wiser advice than it sounds like—for the benefit of bohemian ragamuffins half my age in the Marigny quarter of New Orleans, where my wife and I now live. But what the hell. The weather was fine, the show was free and a 20-minute walk from our house, so why not? Despite having been a passionate fan in the '80s (she was the perfect age for it), my wife had somehow never seen Blondie live before. I hadn't seen them since, oh, 1978, shortly before the multiplatinum-selling Parallel Lines turned them from a likable semi-spoof that nose-in-the-air scenesters didn't take seriously (Talking Heads, man—now, that was art, and David Byrne wasn't about to let you forget it) into the hottest band in the world for a while. Reviewing that shimmering...

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