Sunday, January 16, 2011


At the end of every year comes a rush of anticipation, and it’s not just for Christmas gifts. While every person in the world that is able to type puts out a Top 10 list of some sort, the folks at Da Capo books publishes two anthologies I rush out to buy: the Best Food Writing and the Best Music Writing, both of which are aptly described by their names. The former is edited annually by Holly Hughes, a former executive editor of Fodor’s and the author of various Frommer’s guides; the latter has a rotation of guest editors each year, with 2010’s guest being Ann Powers, who, among other things, is the chief pop critic at the LA Times. As we read through both, we thought it’d be fun to stack them up against each other in a battle to the end: who will fare better, the food writer or music writer?

The Forewords

Let’s get started with the editors themselves, both of whom wrote forewords to their respective books. Both editors start off with similar conceits: the death of print, the rise of digital media, the death of critical writing, and a slew of details falling in-between.

Best Food Writing

Hughes’ foreword had some juicy material in 2010 to launch from with the death of Gourmet magazine, which she mentions in an overall “this gosh darned Internet” piece that reads a little too folksy. There’s some recognition that there’s now this kinda huge online thing (her kid gets recipes from Epicurious, both mother and daughter visit websites, etc.) with a wee bit of pandering (“The truth is, a great deal of today’s best food writing is being published online, on a proliferating number of serious food Web sites…nearly a dozen of the pieces selected for this year’s edition were published first on Web sites”). Hughes has, in the past, been criticized of falling a bit behind the times, and this bit ain’t gonna help. Running score: -1

Best Music Writing

While Powers’ foreward deals with similar themes – the rise of online media, the death of music writing – she does so in a much more introspective way that probably speaks to how broadly music writing has developed over the past forty years. There’s some great insight here about print, the rise of blogs and their replacement by tweets, and their effect on music writing: “…I think despair is boring. It lands the worrier in the time-travel trap of longing for the past while fearing the future. It obscures the present. The present is unstable, but that’s what makes music writing – and all cultural writing, in fact – so exciting a practice these days. We have to dump our expectations and try to use our voices and our minds in different ways.” Running score: +1

Check back as we go through the rest of both books. Next up: Locovores in Best Food Writing, and Beth Ditto’s days at the Paris Fashion Week in Best Music Writing.
the clutterer Web Developer

1 comment:

  1. I've always been a music writing geek, and I've always wished food writing had a bit more of the energy and thoughtfulness of good music writing. Jonathan Gold is dope and I guess it's no accident that he used to be a music writer. (I just came across his piece on a Germs show, mixed in among his LA Weekly Food + Drink pieces, and it sorta blew away his writing on food).