McNulty on why we do what we (should) do
Sometimes we post essays about criticism in the right-hand column. But this piece by Charles McNulty for the LA Times earrents the front page.
Nowadays, he says, “criticism isn’t always readily distinguishable from the salesmanship and hype that have corrupted not just our politics but the arts, education and even healthcare.” … “Reviews written at an assembly-line rate aren’t going to have much room for contemplation. One symptom of the relentless pace is the lazy sprawl of plot summaries.” … “Verdicts must be delivered, but they shouldn’t be the ‘point’ of a review any more than an interpretive statement should be the point of a work of art.” … “[Report cards] make for dull reading… . Good prose ignores protocols… . Criticism is fundamentally — and defiantly — an act of writing.” … “Convincing an audience why [theater] should matter to them, and to a culture increasingly enthralled by its own superficiality, seems to me not a bad way of spending a working life.” He even quotes Northrop Frye!
Kerfuffles past: Similar issues were raised two years ago in the critical dust-up between McNulty and John Lahr, summarized here, with links.