James Wolcott has a way with words. He can write about many things well. In Lucking Out he writes about his observations of life in New York City in the 1970s, when he was a young writer for the Village Voice and other important New York magazines.
It was a time when New York was changing in many ways. It was violent, vibrant, and buzzing with creative energy. Wolcott made it his job to observe the culture and write about it, generally remaining deliberately away from the center of the action.
The book is often sharp and witty, and some of Wolcott's stories are fascinating. However, other parts of the book are uneven. Many of the names that he drops and stories he tells are about people who are so obscure now, particularly outside of New York City, that most readers will not find them especially interesting.
The first part of the book deals with Wolcott's arrival in New York from Maryland at a very young age, landing a job at the Village Voice, and becoming part of the group that surrounded the film critic Pauline Kael, possibly the most influential critic of the '70s. Through Kael, he meets characters such as Gore Vidal and Norman Mailer. Nevertheless, this is the part which will probably fail to engage many readers.
The second part, about the punk scene, is unfortunately quite short, For most readers outside of New York City, or who were not old enough to experience '70s culture, this will probably be the most consistently interesting part of the book, since Patti Smith, The Ramones, and other inhabitants of famed club CBGB's who were changing the face of music then have kept their interest for many in subsequent generations.