That I burned through Camera Man: Buster Keaton, the Dawn of Cinema, and the Invention of the Twentieth Century in a few days’ time speaks volumes; I am a notoriously slow reader, in part because I like to take notes and highlight passages, and in part because I read several books at once. Not this time*.
Dana Stevens is a great critic, and I’ll recommend you at least read her work for Slate. I do recommend you pick up this book, though. She’s a dexterous, engaging writer, and so the most daunting parts of her Buster Keaton biography (a’la American history lessons) read with pleasure. Then you get to the Keaton stuff, and it gets even better. For me, the heart of this book is the role of criticism; I think Americans are increasingly growing media illiterate and have no idea what being a critic means, and without saying it, Stevens gives a masterclass on the discipline**.
You can read my glowing review over at Paste Magazine.
*I had to write a review, so that played at least a partial role here.
**She also inspired me to show B The General, which she dug. So, score.