Prof, now author, has critiqued rock's greats

The Daily Pennsylvanian
October 10, 2005

Professor Anthony DeCurtis

English professor Anthony DeCurtis has ridden in former Beatle George Harrison's car, taken home a Grammy Award and shared childhood memories with Martin Scorsese.

He also teaches creative writing at the Kelly Writers House.

DeCurtis has compiled his interviews with musicians, actors and directors -- published by Rolling Stone and The New York Times -- from the last 23 years into a new book, In Other Words.

"There's a ragged quality to some of these interviews," DeCurtis says. "I wanted it to have a conversational feel."

DeCurtis' career began in the early 1980s with his interviews for Record and Rolling Stone magazines. After joining the staff of Rolling Stone in 1986, DeCurtis wrote music reviews and ultimately became senior editor of the review section.

He soon gained prominence as a rock critic and even won a Grammy in 1988 for his album notes for Eric Clapton's compilation album Crossroads.

In 1998, he authored Rocking My Life Away and always hoped to release a follow-up compilation.

The new collection contains the full transcripts of his interviews, from Van Morrison's belligerent responses -- which "made it difficult to listen to [his music] for a while," DeCurtis said -- to Rufus Wainwright's discussion of drug addiction.

DeCurtis, who has been commuting from New York City every Thursday since 2002, teaches a class on writing about the arts.

"I want to help people get an accurate view of things ... a sort of three-dimensional view of the world," DeCurtis said.

Last Thursday, he was at the Kelly Writers House to promote his book.

Accompanying DeCurtis at the Writers House were his journalist friends, including Paul Raushenbush and Steve Volk, who read from their own work in addition to lauding DeCurtis.

"He's a brain on legs," Volk exclaimed.

Jennifer Snead, director of the Writers House, said that DeCurtis' years of experience give him a unique teaching perspective. They also make it possible for him to bring guest speakers each week to supplement the lecture.

"He really is like a dream instructor," Snead said. "He's contributed so much to the Writers House community."

2004 College alumnus Daniel McQuade agreed.

"My writing definitely improved from the start [of DeCurtis' class] to the finish," he said.

McQuade is now working for Philadelphia Weekly.

After DeCurtis and others read, he signed copies of his book for audience members.

"The reaction [to In Other Words] has been very warm," DeCurtis said.

Once finished promoting his book, DeCurtis plans to continue writing about rock for as long as possible.

"It's very gratifying to do work you like to do," DeCurtis said. "It's fun, and the older I get, the more that becomes the criteria for what I choose to do."