Unlikely Teachers

Aug 29 2012 @ 10:03am

Maria Bustillos pens an appreciation for music critic Lester Bangs and his eclectic literary tastes:

Every reader, starting from childhood, draws his own map of the world of letters. There is liable to be some outside guidance here and there, naturally. Certain landmarks are supplied to us, say in English class. But teachers aren’t found only in school. As a kid, my chief literary mentor was the rock critic Lester Bangs, who wrote for Creem magazine and The Village Voice in the seventies and early eighties. He shaped my nascent taste, and taught me to read much the way I still read now. And as much as I relied on his irresistible humor and wisdom for advice on how best to blow my birthday money at the Licorice Pizza record store, I sought him out still more to learn about books, in particular the forbidden and arcane books no conventional teacher would ever mention.

Lester Bangs was a wreck of a man, right up until his death in April of 1982, at the age of thirty-three. He was fat, sweaty, unkempt—an out-of-control alcoholic in torn jeans and a too-small black leather jacket; crocked to the gills on the Romilar cough syrup he swigged down by the bottle. He also had the most advanced and exquisite taste of any American writer of his generation, uneven and erratic as it was.