Column

The Reading Room

Writing about writing about music.

Henry writes about music and music books for ND, The Bluegrass Situation, Country Standard Time, Publishers Weekly, and more.

The Reading Room

Writing about writing about music.

Henry writes about music and music books for ND, The Bluegrass Situation, Country Standard Time, Publishers Weekly, and more.

Success, Failure, and the Role of Critics Who Sort It All Out

Henry - I'm awed and humbled by the challenges this column puts before anyone wishing to propose to write criticism, whether it be literary or the more broad arena of social criticism. As I was reading your powerful piece, Louis Menand and John Updike came to my mind as worthy of the list you posed. Beyond that, the criteria for criticism are ones that stand for leading  a good life. Confident enough to live and express a good life while humble enough to engage in continual reappraisal seem to be provide a pretty good base on which to build. As a person of many opinions, I can only hope mine serve to stimulate and enlighten without ever blaming and discouraging. Thanks for your wonderful thoughts.

Thanks for your comments, Ted. Yes, Louis Menand could certainly be included in this list; as a matter of fact, he has a book, The Metaphysical Club, that addresses some of these issues. I've certainly always admired his writing. Yes; "stimulate and enlighten"; I like that phrase. Thanks very much for sharing your thoughts here.

A glimpse into the (far less elevated) workings of the mind of one reader here.  Parts of this article reminded me strongly of the food critic's summation towards the end of the animated 'Ratatouille' film.   That's not a snark, just a random observation.  There are, of course, good critics and bad critics just like everything else, but in my mind when it comes to music it pretty much comes down to one person's opinion, and how that person's opinion lines up with my own.  A "good critic" is a critic who generally likes what I like, and therefore I'm more willing to follow his/her musings about other music I may not be familiar with, or even to go back and re-listen/reassess music I had initially dismissed.  A "bad critic" is a critic who generally likes music I do not, or dislikes music I enjoy, and whose opinions can therefore be safely discarded.

As I said at the outset - - a far less elevated take on the topic, but there it is!

 

You can always invoke Lester as a critic whose passion was evident and his reviews were "personal" as Dickstein said...

That's just a great song...I never get tired of hearing it...Jackson Browne's adolescent masterpiece, that at times sounds like the ruminations of someone at the end of their days...

Nice piece Henry...