Monday, October 06, 2008

The way to one's judgment matters more than the judgment

“Critics worth their salt earn their reputations by taking on established taste, whether it appears in stuffy form, or--less obviously--as a kind of adversarial posturing.

“My [Web] respondents seemed to identify criticism with the act of passing judgment. But for a true critic, judgment is the burden you start out with. The challenge, even in a short review, is to distil judgment into wit, humour, irony, history, anecdote--into a style that is the only justification for passing judgment. No one reads literary critic James Wood, my former colleague at the New Republic, merely for his verdicts. You read him for the way he embeds dazzling intuitions in breathtaking imagery--for the way his criticism emerges from the chrysalis of his style, before your very eyes.

“Kenneth Tynan once quipped that the critic knows the way, but the artist knows how to drive the car. In fact, any critic worth reading knows that the way he drives to his judgment matters more than his judgment... Having an opinion, agreeing or disagreeing, is quick and easy; reading or writing criticism is a type of patience, just as art is a type of patience.”

-- Lee Siegel, “Truth and consequences”

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