Groundbreaking feminist author, activist, and academic Ellen Willis died Wednesday. Willis had been sick from some time. Born in 1941, she served as the first pop music critic at the New Yorker, and later worked as an editor and writer at the Village Voice, on and off, until the mid 1990s.
I'm at the office away from my extensive reference library but you music people will remember Willis from her essay in Greil Marcus' desert-island-disc book Stranded: "Velvet Underground" is one of the finest Velvet Underground essays ever written, right up there with Wayne McGuire's famous piece on drone and transcendence and if I can get a chance tonight I'll find her essay collection and maybe transcribe a tiny bit. Or you can just trust me. Related: I quoted about three words off her here but I don't think that really gets much at all across.
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From the book Beginning To See The Light: Sex, Hope, And Rock-And-Roll:
What it comes down to for me--as a Velvets fan, a lover of rock-and-roll, a New Yorker, an aesthete, a punk, a sinner, a sometime seeker of enlightenment (and love) (and sex)--is this: I believe that we are all, openly or secretly, struggling against one or another kind of nihilism. I believe that body and spirit are not really separate, though it often seems that way. I believe that redemption is never impossible and always equivocal. But I guess that I just don't know.