How (Not?) to Be a Critic

How (Not?) to Be a Critic

There’s been a spate of recent comments on criticism as chastisement and/or advertising (mainly of books, but we see the connections). For links to pieces by Richard Brody (, Jacob Silverman (, David Streitfield (, J. Robert Lennon ( and Dwight Garner (, click below. Here’s a teaser from Brody’s “How to Be a Critic”:

It’s as silly to deplore nasty criticism as it is to deplore snark or wit or sarcasm or just plain crankiness. It’s how we are—it’s how I am—and nastiness is as inseparable from criticism as it is from family life, from politics, from business, from the playground, and, for that matter, from art itself. One of the defining qualities of art is its implacability—its representation of violent and dangerous emotions, its ardor for and even embodiment of the negative, the destructive, the repugnant. Art is a place of maximal danger; it endangers the soul of the artist no less than the soul of the reader or viewer or listener. Exaltation comes at a price; sublimity, after all, involves a type of terror.

In the following, Brody answers Silverman and there are various other connections. Streifeld is more reportage, revealing the corruption of online “reviewing.”

Jacob Silverman, “Against Enthusiasm: The Epidemic of Niceness in Online Book Culture,” Aug. 4, 2012

Dwight Garner, “A Critic’s Case for Critics Who Are Actually Critical,” Aug. 15, 2012

J. Robert Lennon, “How to Write a Bad Review,” Aug. 18, 2012

Richard Brody, “How to Be a Critic,” Aug. 22, 2012

David Streitfeld, “The Best Book Reviews Money Can Buy,” Aug. 25, 2012

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