September 20, 2021 06:00 p.m.

Joshua Clover in conversation with Justin Desmangles

Price: Free (Registration Required)

A meditation on Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers’ 1972 freewheeling rock and roll classic “Roadrunner” from a passionate cultural critic.

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This is a virtual event that will be hosted by City Lights on the Zoom platform. You will need access to a device that is capable of navigating the internet. If you have not used Zoom before, you may consider referencing Getting Started with Zoom.


Joshua Clover in conversation with Justin Desmangles

discussing Joshua Clover’s new book


published by Duke University Press

Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers’ 1972 song “Roadrunner” captures the freedom and wonder of cruising down the highway late at night with the radio on. Although the song circles Boston’s beltway, its significance reaches far beyond Richman’s deceptively simple declarations of love for modern moonlight, the made world, and rock & roll. In Roadrunner, cultural theorist and poet Joshua Clover charts both the song’s emotional power and its elaborate history, tracing its place in popular music from Chuck Berry to M.I.A. He also locates “Roadrunner” at the intersection of car culture, industrialization, consumption, mobility, and politics. Like the song itself, Clover tells a story about a particular time and place—the American era that rock & roll signifies—that becomes a story about love and the modern world.

Joshua Clover is Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Davis, and author of Riot. Strike. Riot: The New Era of Uprisings; 1989: Bob Dylan Didn’t Have This to Sing About; and other books.

Justin Desmangles is chairman of the Before Columbus Foundation, administrator of the American Book Award, and host of the radio broadcast New Day Jazz. A member of the board of directors of the Oakland Book Festival, Mr. Desmangles is also a program producer at the African-American Center of the San Francisco Public Library.


“Roadrunner is a wonderful book: unique, passionate, sardonic, and as intellectually playful as it is rigorous. It is thrilling to be in the presence of a writer realizing all of his gifts—and yet he and the reader never lose sight of the song or cease to hear it. In that sense, Joshua Clover has not only realized himself as a writer; he has realized the song.” — Greil Marcus, author of The History of Rock ‘n’ Roll in Ten Songs

“Roadrunner is incisive, poetic, and full of life, a beautifully circuitous meditation that mirrors how obsessive music fandom feels. Joshua Clover is in his finest critical form here.” — Jessica Hopper, author of The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic

“In this fascinating discursive journey, Clover discusses Boston-area car culture’s impact on the lyrics and music of ‘Roadrunner’ and other road and highway songs; he also laments social changes wrought by the emphasis on industrialization and, more recently, financialization, at the expense of substantive production. . . . Clover demonstrates a sweeping command of his material. . . .” — Barry Zaslow, Library Journal


Sponsored by the City Lights Foundation


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Event Details

Date: September 20, 2021

Start time: 06:00 p.m. PDT

Venue: Zoom

Phone: 415-362-8193


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