Four or five years ago, when I was thinking of quitting my job in book publishing and striking out as a writer, a journalism program at NYU caught my eye. It was called Cultural Reporting and Criticism , and the thing that pretty much sold me was that it had been founded by the New Yorker 's first rock critic, Ellen Willis. Hot damn , I thought. That's pretty cool.
A radical feminist with a mind like a bell, who celebrated pleasure and rigor in equal measure, Willis was one of the greats; right up there with Greil Marcus and Pauline Kael, though perhaps not lauded quite as loudly. Sadly, Willis passed away the year before I started at NYU—but we still had her fierce writing for inspiration.
Now, her daughter, Nona Willis Aronowitz—herself a feminist critic and writer —has put together an online archive where you can dip into some of Willis's work. At the moment, it seems to be limited to what's already available on the Web, but it's a great introduction. (Plus, if I may say so, how gorgeous is she in that photo on the homepage? How could you not want to grow up to become Ellen Willis?)