“Everyone in this world has someone else whom he can look down on,” wrote George Orwell in 1946, “and I must say, from experience of both trades, that the book reviewer is better off than the film critic, who cannot even do his work at home.”
Now, of course, he can. So that must leave the theater critic (along with dance and restaurant — am I forgetting anyone?) at the bottom of the pile today. But as Nathan Heller asks in his New Yorker review of A.O. Scott’s new Better Living Through Criticism, “what’s the point of a reviewer in an age when everyone reviews?” A fair question. Scott has a few answers.