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Perfect Wave

More Essays on Art and Democracy

Perfect Wave

More Essays on Art and Democracy

 A collection of essays by American art critic Dave Hickey, nicknamed “The Bad Boy of Art Criticism.”
When Dave Hickey was twelve, he rode the surfer’s dream: the perfect wave. And, like so many things in life we long for, it didn’t quite turn out—he shot the pier and dashed himself against the rocks of Sunset Cliffs in Ocean Beach, which nearly killed him.
Hickey went on to develop a career as one of America’s foremost critical iconoclasts, a trusted no-nonsense voice commenting on the worlds of art and culture. Perfect Wave brings together essays on a wide range of subjects from throughout Hickey’s career, displaying his breadth of interest and powerful insight into what makes art work, or not, and why we care. With Hickey as our guide, we travel to Disneyland and Vegas, London and Venice. We discover the genius of Karen Carpenter and Waylon Jennings, learn why Robert Mitchum matters more than Jimmy Stewart, and see how the stillness of Antonioni speaks to us today. Never slow to judge—or to surprise us in doing so—Hickey relates his wincing disappointment in the later career of his early hero Susan Sontag and shows us the appeal to our commonality that we’ve been missing in Norman Rockwell.
Bookended by previously unpublished personal essays that offer a new glimpse into Hickey’s own life—including the aforementioned conclusion to his surfing career—Perfect Wave is a welcome addition to the Hickey canon.

An audiobook version is available.

240 pages | 3 halftones, 1 line drawing | 6 x 9 | © 2017

Art: Art Criticism

Biography and Letters

Film Studies

Literature and Literary Criticism: General Criticism and Critical Theory

Music: General Music


"Veteran art critic Hickey delivers another poignant and masterful collection of essays. In each selection, he critically and humorously contemplates cultural zeitgeists and the essence of good art in music, books, paintings, and architecture. His razor-sharp insight and witty prose make for an entertaining read. . . . While his prose is charming and at times aphoristic, Hickey is always serious when challenging the status quo or defending the cultural innovators who, in his view, have realized art’s potential as a medium for beauty, democracy, and unabashed self-expression."

Publishers Weekly

"He remains one of the finest American cultural critics, for he opens his own pleasures to appreciative scrutiny and collective relish."


Table of Contents

Baby Breakers
Cool on Cool: William Claxton’s World
“Goodbye to Love”
Wonderful Shoes
A World like Santa Barbara
It’s Morning in Nevada: On the Campaign Trail in Post-Bush America
My Silk Road
The Last Mouseketeer
After the Prom
Firecrackers: Terry Castle Celebrates Her Independence
¡Una Lesbiana Enamorada! Susan Sontag
His Mickey Mouse Ways
Mitchum Gets Out of Jail
The Real Michelangelo
Reading Ruskin Writing
Palladio’s Song
Morris Lapidus: Life as We Know It
Art Fairies
Little Victories

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