Author / Record Producer
      Winner of the 45th Annual ASCAP
      Deems Taylor Award
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Exiled in Paradise one of Donna Rifkind’s “Five Best” Wall Street Journal, Feb 2020
What It Was Like to Be at Aretha Franklin’s First NYC Performance Billboard, Aug 2018
Read Anthony’s The Number That No Man Could Number in February 2017 Harper’s
and his coda The Old Prejudices in Harper’s March 21, 2017 Blog
   The Fan Who Knew Too Much     
The Secret Closets of American Culture

“On Aretha’s gospel grooming and
 inheritances there’s no more delightful
 and enlightening read than Anthony
 Heilbut’s essay ‘Aretha: How She Got
 Over’ from his collection The Fan
 Who Knew Too Much.

— Carl Wilson, Slate
“Nothing new in the last year gave me as much pure reading pleasure as
 pages in this book. Heilbut ranges over the culture like a madman, but
 with a fierce sanity in his eye, debunking myths and erecting new ones.
 I finished The Fan Who Knew Too Much wondering how, without it, I’d
 ever thought I understood a thing about America in the 20th century.”
— John Jeremiah Sullivan, author of Pulphead
“Take in his witty, passionate prose, his uncanny blend of scholarship
 and reportage, his analytic brilliance and his joie de vivre. You will be
 stirred and delighted.”
— Margo Jefferson, author of Constructing a Nervous System
“One of the most important and ingenious books of cultural criticism I’ve ever read.
 The first essay fairly brims with the remarkable energy of great scholarship, yoking
 ideas and making connections; the second is arguably the best and most informed
 thing I’ve ever read about Aretha. As fun to read, and think about, as it is profound.”
— Thomas Dyja, author of New York, New York, New York:
Four Decades of Success, Excess, and Transformation

“My kinda brain food.”
— James Wolcott
“Leapt off the shelf and refused to be put down . . . Everything I know about
 gospel music I’ve learned from Anthony Heilbut’s compilations and writings;
 thanks to his crazy compendium The Fan Who Knew Too Much, he has now,
 also, taught me everything I know about radio soap operas, Aretha Franklin,
 and homosexuality in the black church.”
— Lorin Stein, The Paris Review Full Review   [PDF]
“Anthony Heilbut has been a guide and a mentor to me. I know of no one
 who has the love and depth of knowledge of this extraordinary author.”
— Paul Simon
“A remarkably bold and original examination of American culture, filled with passion,
 insight and scholarship. An essential work.”
— Robert Hilburn, author of Johnny Cash: The Life
“The intellectual command and all-over-the-place critical nimbleness on display in
 these essays are dazzling — they range from a minibiography of Aretha Franklin
 to a reflection on the high-pitched male voice in both pop and classical music to
 a celebration of the Austrian novelist Joseph Roth — but it is a nearly 100-page
 piece driven by ethical and political urgency that anchors the collection.’”
— Eric Banks, The Chicago TribuneFull Review   [PDF]
“At the book’s heart, alongside the title essay, is the extended meditation on
 Aretha Franklin . . . the most incisive and illuminating portrait yet drawn . . .
 as well as a soul-searching exposé on the outing of gays in the black church.
 These essays allow Mr. Heilbut to deploy a confessional mode that suits his
 elegy for a dying American art . . . [a] most profound study.”
— Eddie Dean, The Wall Street Journal Full Review   [PDF]
“[Heilbut] comes at his subjects quietly and humanely, with no agenda
 other than to understand . . . There aren’t many fans like Heilbut, with his
 cataloguing ardor, his teeming frame of reference and his thirst for experience
  . . . Without breaking a sweat, he swings from the plight of modern academia
 to the enduring values of the daytime radio serial. He drops in on old favorites
 such as Einstein and Hannah Arendt. Throwing them all into a single volume,
 he gives us the thread to bind them.
— Louis Bayard, The Washington PostFull Review   [PDF]
“Surprising and deeply moving . . . Rousing and impassioned . . .
 Heilbut’s various obsessions are weaved through this deeply personal collection,
 giving it the charismatic stamp of a single man and a single mind.”
— Ian Crouch, The Boston Globe Full Review   [PDF]
“Heilbut’s insights, new to me, make Somebody Else’s Paradise an intriguing
 essay on many levels—i.e., androgyny as an émigré contribution, Brecht’s career
 prompting the speculation that dialectics means never having to say you’re sorry,
 the Joseph tetralogy as a huge novel about storytelling . . . Oh, and Palmer,
 Dietrich, and Lamarr having nothing in common with Arendt except for being
 smarter than anyone expected them to be — which, in some ways, is a
 great deal, etc. But what impresses most is that he covers so much ground,
 packs in so much information, offer nuanced judgments, AND tells jokes,
 all the while making it look effortless.”
— Tess Lewis, PEN Award-Winning Translator
“Heilbut gives gospel music back its gayness . . . Throughout the book, across art
 forms, he argues that the heart is with those who have been turned out; that the
 center of a community and an art are in fact not at the center, but at the margin.
  . . . Heilbut’s generous book demonstrates that no fan can know too much,
 or love too much.”
— Noah Berlatsky, Slate Full Review   [PDF]
“He knows the score and tells it in a style by turns tragic, bawdy, transporting,
 and balefully beautiful . . . With The Fan Heilbut turns his haunted fascination
 into a meditative reckoning with the struggle to ‘get over’ for all those who are
 exiled among their own people.”
— Douglas Harrison, The Gay and Lesbian ReviewFull Review   [PDF]
“Nimble, expansive and conveyed with delightful panache . . . Heilbut’s work has
 long been distinguished by his gift for taking on polysemous topics and spinning
 the reader through them, gracefully and compellingly — teasing out all sorts of
 unexpected associations along the way. It’s a pleasure to read intellectual history
 where the frame of reference is so unabashedly broad and the weave of ideas
 so rewarding to follow . . . It’s an irresistible ride and full of discoveries.”
— George Prochnik, author of The Impossible Exile Full Review   [PDF]
“Impeccably researched . . . Heilbut’s propensity for tangents and parenthetical
 observations occurs as a worthwhile, even endearing exercise, the mark of an
 author who is unabashedly passionate about his subject. He writes luminously
 about Thomas Mann . . . and, most touchingly, the brilliant but troubled writer
 Joseph Roth. Perhaps the most successful essay is its last, in which the
 author reveals himself as a music fan of epic proportions.”
— Iris McLister, Santa Fe New MexicanFull Review   [PDF]
“Marvelously zesty, erotically frank, assumption-blasting essays . . . take us
 on a guided tour unlike any other through the spirals of the psyche.”
— Donna Seaman, BooklistFull Review   [PDF]
“The Fan Who Knew Too Much feels like a late Beethoven string quartet,
 drawing on a rich career’s obsessions and paying tribute to sources of
— Jimmy So, The Daily BeastFull Review   [PDF]
“Majestic . . .The Fan Who Knew Too Much is one of the best collections of essays
 to appear in many years. It is written with depth, clarity, sensitivity, wit and lyricism.
 It is Heilbut at his masterful and literary best.
— Wallace Best, The Huffington PostFull Article   [PDF]
“A brilliant, one-of-a-kind and immensely challenging book by a brilliant,
 one-of-a-kind, immensely challenging American writer.”
— Jeff Simon, The Buffalo NewsFull Review   [PDF]
— See Books for More Reviews —
Now in Paperback

Purchase Here
M O R E   P R A I S E
John Cameron Mitchell
Q. The last great books you’ve read?         
A. Nabokov’s Pale Fire, and The Fan Who Knew Too Much by Anthony Heilbut  

Ann Powers
“Buy it just for the Aretha chapter,
it really will change your life.”

American Masters:
Sister Rosetta Tharpe
February 22, 2013

Michelangelo Signorile Show
August 20, 2012

Bob Edwards Show
August 20, 2012

Mischke Til Midnight
July 23, 2012

The Leonard Lopate Show
July 9, 2012

Cat Radio Cafe
June 25, 2012

The World Today
June 4, 2012

Washington Blade
Life-long ‘Fan’
November 15, 2012

Gay City News
Gay Wind Beneath Gospel’s Wings
August 29, 2012

The Record —
Music News from NPR

Gospel’s Secrets Come into the Light
August 6, 2012

Religion Dispatches
The Gospel Church and the
Ruining of Gay Lives
July 30, 2012

Rutgers University
The Gospel Sound at 50
A Conversation with Anthony Heilbut
December 13, 2021


The Black Church
This is our Story. This is our Song.
February 17, 2021
“The Mississippi Whoop”
cf.  The Paris Review   [2-24-17]