Robert Shelton

Nothing quite captures the myth of the vinyl-era music industry as a benevolent autocracy like the narrative of the career-making audition. A scruffy young unknown hitchhikes from the mine country of Minnesota to midtown Manhattan, where a white-haired and golden-eared man in a suit hears something in the boy that no one else has noticed and signs him to a record contract, through which fame and glory ensue.

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My late mother, bless her, prodded me to write better by withholding her approval, and I’m grateful to her for that in the same way that Philip Roth should be thankful to the Nobel committee. He and his admirers (and I’m one of them) might not have been able to enjoy the considerable pleasures of Roth’s late-career burst of ambition and prolificacy if he had not been fixated on winning the Nobel Prize for Literature.

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