In which a group of graying eternal amateurs discuss their passions, interests and obsessions, among them: movies, art, politics, evolutionary biology, taxes, writing, computers, these kids these days, and lousy educations.

E-Mail Donald
Demographer, recovering sociologist, and arts buff

E-Mail Fenster
College administrator and arts buff

E-Mail Francis
Architectural historian and arts buff

E-Mail Friedrich
Entrepreneur and arts buff
E-Mail Michael
Media flunky and arts buff

We assume it's OK to quote emailers by name.

Try Advanced Search

  1. Another Technical Note
  2. La Ligne Maginot
  3. Actress Notes
  4. Technical Day
  5. Peripheral Explanation
  6. More Immigration Links
  7. Another Graphic Detournement
  8. Peripheral Artists (5): Mikhail Vrubel
  9. Illegal Update

Sasha Castel
AC Douglas
Out of Lascaux
The Ambler
Modern Art Notes
Cranky Professor
Mike Snider on Poetry
Silliman on Poetry
Felix Salmon
Polly Frost
Polly and Ray's Forum
Stumbling Tongue
Brian's Culture Blog
Banana Oil
Scourge of Modernism
Visible Darkness
Thomas Hobbs
Blog Lodge
Leibman Theory
Goliard Dream
Third Level Digression
Here Inside
My Stupid Dog
W.J. Duquette

Politics, Education, and Economics Blogs
Andrew Sullivan
The Corner at National Review
Steve Sailer
Joanne Jacobs
Natalie Solent
A Libertarian Parent in the Countryside
Rational Parenting
Colby Cosh
View from the Right
Pejman Pundit
God of the Machine
One Good Turn
Liberty Log
Daily Pundit
Catallaxy Files
Greatest Jeneration
Glenn Frazier
Jane Galt
Jim Miller
Limbic Nutrition
Innocents Abroad
Chicago Boyz
James Lileks
Cybrarian at Large
Hello Bloggy!
Setting the World to Rights
Travelling Shoes

Redwood Dragon
The Invisible Hand
Daze Reader
Lynn Sislo
The Fat Guy
Jon Walz


Our Last 50 Referrers

« 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?



posted by Michael at October 3, 2002


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

Post a comment

Email Address:



Remember your info?