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« Free Reads -- P.D. James | Main | Begs the Question »

October 03, 2002

Not a Critic

Friedrich --

After a few recent visits with bright, talented friends who are critics, it occurs to me why I’m not one. (Putting aside all questions of my gifts and credentials, or lack thereof, of course.) Critics, generally speaking, care about their opinions. I mean, really care. Do they want to impose their opinions, and see them prevail? I don’t know. But at the very least, most of the critics I’ve known want their opinion to be out there in public, playing a role (the bigger the better) in forming “the general consensus.”

My opinion just isn't that important to me, and I have a hard time seeing why it should be of much importance to anyone else. (“Opinions are like assholes...”, etc.) The real critic seems to feel that the world needs to know his opinion. Me, I’m grateful to have a few people in my life willing to put up with me, let alone my no doubt tiresome opinionating. The “general consensus”? It gets on fine without input from me. And then it gets revised anyway. So why waste the energy?

For me, an opinion is a small part of a much larger package of responses: feelings, reflections, musings, thoughts, observations, bodily sensations. And lord knows I do love exploring reactions, other people's as much as my own. But that's one of art's functions, to give us excuses to muck voluptuously about in this make-believe-but-oh-so-real way.

Comparing notes=bliss. Fighting over opinions? Arguing about whose is right? Thanks, but I’ll pass.

How do you experience your own opinions?

Best,

Michael

posted by Michael at October 3, 2002




Comments

I like this distinction. The value of critics is that by describing the feelings and reactions that go with their own likes and dislikes, as opposed to just saying "like it" or "don't like it", they help the rest of us also to describe our own likes and dislikes, to ourselves, and that make us smarter at enjoying and appreciating art, by which I mean real appreciation, not "art appreciation". Was it you gentlemen who linked to an interview with conductor/violinist Joseph Swenson? Don't remember, but I loved what Swenson said about the "forte piano", namely (for those who missed it) that it was a real piano struggling to emerge, but meanwhile not really very nice to listen to. Unlike the harpsichord, which is a fully developed instrument, at its musical destination. Bingo. I have always thought this, but had having managed to tell it to myself I have inflicted much needless forte-pianistic suffering upon myself.

When critics become ridiculous and/or annoying is when they explain why our likes and dislikes should be ignored or shoved aside by theirs, because of some fancy theory of art that they've cooked up - often a theory involving some shallow definition of artistic progress, or else a shallow and superficial demarcation line between art and not-art. The novel is dead therefore this gripping and splendidly written novel is junk. Pop music can't be art, so this pop song must be bad no matter how good it is. Progress means doing this, which this guy is doing badly, so this guy's good despite being bad. Or, your recent target and one of my favorite targets also: if it's commercial it can't be art and if it's art it can't ever have been commercial.

I think that your blog is a work of art. By this I mean: I like it.

Posted by: Brian Micklethwait on October 3, 2002 05:58 PM



I'd add that age tends to play a role in the urge to shove your opinions down the throat of the rest of the world. Up through about the age of 28 or so, I thought I was doing the human race a huge favor by telling them what to think about music and movies. Now, I'm 43 and I actually do get paid to write movie reviews for UPI. But I know an awful lot more about people that I did when I was a kid, so I don't expect many people to ever like what I. So I'm now much more interested in why different kinds of people like what they like.

Posted by: Steve Sailer on October 3, 2002 09:56 PM






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