John Leland is a reporter for the New York Times and former editor in chief of Details, and he was an original columnist at SPIN magazine.
Hip "has created fortunes, destroyed lives and shaped the way millions of us talk, dress, dance, make love or see ourselves in the mirror," Leland says History. "Everyone knows what hip is."
Robert Christgau of the Village Voice called him "the best American postmod critic (the best new American rock critic period)," and Chuck D of Public Enemy said the nasty parts of the song "Bring the Noise" were written about him.
He lives in Manhattan's East Village with his wife, Risa, and son, Jordan.
John Leland covers American culture and news items at the New York Times. You can view a current list of his articles at his New York Times page.
"Why Kerouac Matters: The Lessons of On the Road (They're Not What You Think)"
By John Leland
2007, 205 pp, Viking
Legions of youthful Americans have taken "On the Road" as a manifesto for rebellion and an inspiration to hit the road. But there is much more to the novel than that.
In "Why Kerouac Matters", John Leland embarks on a wry, insightful, and playful discussion of the novel, arguing that it still matters because at its core it is a book that is full of lessons about how to grow up.
Leland's focus is on Sal Paradise, the Kerouac alter ego, who has always been overshadowed by his fictional running buddy Dean Moriarty. Leland examines the lessons that Paradise absorbs and dispenses on his novelistic journey to manhood, and how those lessons &ndash about work and money, love and sex, art and holiness – still reverberate today.
He shows how On the Road is a primer for male friendship and the cultivation of traditional family values, and contends that the stereotype of the two wild and crazy guys obscures the novel's core themes of the search for atonement, redemption, and divine revelation.
Why Kerouac Matters offers a new take on Kerouac's famous novel, overturning many misconceptions about it and making clear the themes Kerouac was trying to impart.
Excerpted from publisher's description
Who needs Jack Kerouac and the echo of the Beat Generation now? That's the question asked and answered by Matt Weiland in his review of John Leland's book "Why Kerouac Metters".
"Who needs it now? The New York Times reporter John Leland thinks we all do," writes Weiland.
"Leland is an amiable and at times instructive guide to 'On the Road,' making his way through the book to reveal what he calls its 'lessons' on work, love, art and religion. He rightly argues that the book is as much about bookish Sal as crazy Dean, that grief and atonement lie at the core of the story, and that low overhead and a sense of improvisation make for a good life."
Matt Weiland is the deputy editor of The Paris Review.
"Hip: The History"
By John Leland
2004, 384 pp, Ecco
"Hip: The History" is the story of how American pop culture has evolved throughout the twentieth century to its current position as world cultural touchstone.
How did hip become such an obsession? From sex and music to fashion and commerce, John Leland tracks the arc of ideas as they move from subterranean Bohemia to Madison Avenue and back again.
"Hip: The History" examines how hip has helped shape – and continues to influence – America's view of itself, and provides an incisive account of hip's quest for authenticity.
Excerpted from publisher's description
"What does it mean to be hip?", asks W.E. Wallo says in his review of "Hip: The History".
"The simple answer, of course, is that if you have to ask, you have no hope (as I tell my kids, I'm so unhip that according to the arcane rules of hipness, I qualify because I don't adhere to any particular trend or fashion, but I'm not sure they're buying it).
"John Leland's  book, "em>Hip: The History" attempts not so much to quantify what makes something hip as to chart the evolution of the idea as a uniquely American form of expression.
"Let's face it: hipness is, as Leland recognizes, an American obsession, and these days the culture of hip is America's greatest export to the world. Leland sets out to examine where the whole idea came from, and how we got here from there.
Editor David Warner of Creative Loafing said some kind and encouraging words on page 26 of the August 26, 2009, issue. Partial quote, "At a moment when ignorance is being aggressively defended, Deep Carnivale still respects our intelligence. Imagine that."
Esther Martinez, in a story at The Florida Book Review" says she knows "Deep Carnivale will be 'A Celebration of Words' and not a Bourbon Street bacchanal."
"But logophile that I am, I reason I'll get drunk on language. With over 70 writers and artists scheduled [for the 2008 Carnivale] to perform or read from their works, my beaded necklaces will be strung with verse. I imagine haiku shooters..."
"It is just before 10am when I arrive at the corner of Palm Avenue and 14th StreetóDeep Carnivale ground zero. About a dozen vendor tables are lined up around the Hillsborough Community College courtyard where a band of teenagers [Next Exit] are setting up their instruments."The vendor tables sell books by local writers, HCC publications and baked goods. I grab a Cuban favorite, papa rellena, a potato stuffed with savory ground beef. Belly satisfied, I cross the street and enter the historic Circulo Cubano. A nearly 100 year old neo-classical building of ionic columns and marble staircases, it served as the Cuban Social Club and remains the oldest building of its kind in the country."
"When I look back over 2008, my visit to the second edition of Deep Carnivale was a
highlight. You and your staff did a great job and I loved being part of it, again.
I am sure there will be bigger festivals to come. But maybe not better!!!"
– Darrell House, children's book author and 2008 Deep Carnivale presenter.