Dear Wilco: I didn't understand you until A Ghost Is Born, which reminded me of Neil Young in his Arc and Weld stage. So how the hell did Sky Blue Sky turn out so boring? Whenever I try to listen to it, I fall asleep. Watching Chinatown does the same thing to me, so maybe you're in good company. Please try harder next time.
Dear Hold Steady: Thank you for the EP that you just released on iTunes. It was a nice surprise, even if the only new track is a cover of Bob Seger's "Against the Wind." I recently stumbled across an mp3 of "For Boston," and feel lucky that I did. True, almost everything you do is crazy fun, but how did the horrible "Chillout Tent" make Boys and Girls in America while "Girls Like Status" and "For Boston" couldn't cut it?
Dear Besnard Lakes: You and I shouldn't like each other at all, but for some reason it's a match.
Dear Amy Winehouse: Occasionally good albums get to be popular, and I'm glad that you've pulled it off. I saw you on Letterman just before the album came out, was instantly smitten, and hunted down every song I could find. You're still keeping me happy and interested. Thanks for that.
Dear Arcade Fire: I find your albums boring and overwrought, but God damn, your reputation as live performers is well earned. The show at Radio City last week, it felt like a privilege to be in that room. I was in a good mood for the next few days just because of you. You may become my next U2: even when they annoy me, their lives shows are indispensable. It was an extraordinary night.
To The Band: The box set for The Last Waltz was worth the price. You're a band that I always turn back to, and I'm glad that we found each other when I was in college.
To The Sopranos: I don't predict you or overanalyze you. I let the experience wash over me. However, it occurred to me that the animating force of this show is that Tony was raised by a woman who tried to murder him, and the pity and horror of seeing Tony kill a man who he thought of as a son brought the series full circle. He is no better than Livia. Also, while I'm writing, I'd like to note that the Slate guys who write about you are first-rate fucktards.
Dear Gary Shteyngart: I avoided reading Absurdistan because its title (wacky!) sounded like a Jimmy Fallon skit and the premise sounded Boratian. Yeah, I'm an idiot sometimes. I haven't had so much fun with a book since A Confederacy of Dunces, and in its first half, it kept occurring to me that you're the John Kennedy Toole who lived. Thanks for being so fun, dude.
Dear Richard Yates: I know you're dead so you might not be reading this, but Revolutionary Road has its great moments, even if it lost me at the end. Very glad to have read it, but it will just make me angry when the movie comes out.
Dear Michael Chabon: True, I'm just 120 pages into The Yiddish Policemen's Union, and true, it's just started to pick up, and true, it's not fair for me to say something mean before I finish the book. But the first 100 pages are rough. Real rough. In the past you could be annoying, but never so boring, and I'm worried about what's going on with you.
Dear Ian McEwan: I hated Saturday, and I hated it oh so very much, but it might be the kind of hatred that only a genius inspires. You know Atonement is my favorite book this century so far, but it took me awhile to forgive you for Saturday. I got around to reading Amsterdam and was happy to see it pull off a great little puzzle and get the tragicomic tone just right. Let's forget Saturday. It's all good now, even if the New Yorker excerpt made me nervous about On Chesil Beach.
Dear Amsterdam: Looking forward to seeing you again this weekend.
Best to all,