The author is David Hajdu, who once wrote a very good biography of Billy Strayhorn, but has apparently gone mental since then.
Here's the opening paragraph.
Paul Nelson, a propagandist committed to some dubious values, had a gift for imbuing disreputable, even dangerous ideas with discomforting grace. You might almost say he was the Leni Riefenstahl of rock criticism. One of the first writers of the post-Elvis era to take the popular music of his time seriously, he never liked black music and thought the blues were overrated, negligible in comparison with the work of overtly cerebral and conspicuously poetic artists of the ’60s and early ’70s like Bob Dylan and Jackson Browne. Nelson revered Browne. He subscribed, both in his writing and in his life, to the macho outcast myths of noir movies and pulp fiction, and he seemed blind to the importance of the great female artists nearly absent in his writing, like Joni Mitchell and Aretha Franklin.Wow. If you don't write about Joni Mitchell you're as bad as one of Hitler's PR people.
Words fail me on that one, Dave.
This one bothers me too.
Nelson made fans, chief among them other writers and musicians who shared his devotion to the ideology of the white American bad boy. Nick Tosches, in the book’s foreword, calls Nelson “one of the most singularly subtle, eloquent voices of his time.” Bruce Springsteen, about whom Nelson wrote with acuity as well as fervor, tells Avery: “Paul’s writing meant a lot to me emotionally. . . . When you went onstage that night you remembered: Hey, you’re working on a promise to keep, not to just yourself but to him. He put his ass on the line for you in that last story, so you better be good. . . . You felt like: This guy needs this thing as much as I do, needs this music or whatever that spirit is you’re trying to manifest or need to feel manifested.”Let's just say that anybody who can describe Springsteen as as an ideologue of "the white American bad boy" has not exactly been paying attention.
Look -- I know David Hajdu, and in fact I owe a lot of what I laughingly describe as "my career" to myriad professional kindnesses he's showed me over the years. So I'm loathe to say this, but frankly that review is just shameful. I don't know if David or somebody at the Times had some kind of personal animus against Paul Nelson, but the rest of the essay simply reeks of score-settling, and the Times did itself absolutely no credit by publishing it.
End of rant.