Sunday, August 19, 2012

WHAT DO BOOK CRITICS BRING TO THE TABLE?





There was a really great piece in the New York Times book section today about the value of critics. Every creative artist should read it. 


It's not only a fun read, but it will probably get people to think about the role of critics in their creative lives. 

HOWEVER...

It was the weirdest thing that the writer of the article, a critic, cites an ABSOLUTELY BEAUTIFUL  Dave Eggers quote...  then DISAGREES with the philosophy behind the quote, but COMPLETELY MISSES the point Eggers was trying to make!

I intended to write about it, but someone beat me to it... and wrote about this point in a far more intelligent way than I would have been able to.

Here is what "A" from New York, NY wrote --

When Mr. Garner quotes Dave Eggers, he demonstrates precisely why critics are repugnant to so many writers and readers. Garner writes, “Eggers is arguing in uplifting tones for mass intellectual suicide. When a work of art makes you feel or think things, he suggests, keep those things to yourself. He is proposing a zombie nation, where wit and disputation go to die.

But there is no evidence for that at all. Eggers didn’t say, “Like everything and everyone.” He didn’t say, “Have no opinion about what you read or see.” It seems he was asking for humility –that before you trash a book or movie or play, perhaps you should have some understanding of the complexities that go into creating a work of art.

Mr. Garner demonstrates the concerns that Eggers and other writers have about some literary critics: lack of understanding doesn’t stop them from pontificating and trashing words and images they do not comprehend – in this case, it seems, with Mr. Garner, at the most basic level of reading comprehension.

That someone like Mr. Garner, who appears incapable of understanding what he has read, could render a verdict that might damage someone’s livelihood and career future is just one of many reasons writers have little use for most second tier critics. Critics like Louis Menand or the late John Updike, however, write with more curiosity than condemnation, with clear-eyed, incisive judgment. But they, indeed, are rare. Given Mr. Garner’s essay, they appear rarer still.