I studied with [James] Wood as an undergraduate and still marvel at the gap between Wood’s professional reputation and his personal demeanor. In the classroom, Wood was quirky and warm. While puzzling over a complex passage, he would vigorously rub the top of his head, as if hoping to coax interpretive brilliance from his bald spot like a genie from a lamp
For the junior reviewer trying to make it in the world, reading James Wood can be a profoundly depressing experience.
Reviewers’ words about my book demonstrate how sexism shapes responses to women’s writing, in particular women’s writing about God. The reviews are expressions of a systemic, institutional attempt to dismiss women’s writing. The reviewers are speaking in code. They are charging me with writing like a woman. And they are telling me to shut up.
What is vitiated in this project of criticism right now is the consumerization of everything. Everything is should I get it? Should I click? Should I not click? That’s not the point of criticism. That’s the point of the shopping channel. I’m not trying to persuade someone to go see a movie or to read a book. I’m talking to someone who is interested in that book about what I thought about it. So it’s very subjective and yet it has to ultimately have a wider appeal than just the subject. It’s very much like being a good judge in the legal sense. You bring a lifetime of experience and in the end it’s very specific to the case.
Feeling inarticulate? Critically gauche? Or just verbally impotent? We here at Pixmaven have developed The Instant Art Critique Phrase Generator so you need never again feel at a loss for pithy commentary or savvy “insights.”
Related longread: Alix Rule & David Levine’s “International Art English,” on the peculiar and pervasive meaninglessness of fine art criticism in Triple Canopy. The take away being, of course, that sometimes art is stupefying but the language used to describe it shouldn’t be.
“Could anyone keep up with the Hitch? Was there another writer on the planet who could churn out a few essays, dispatch a book review, quell a bloated pastor, give a lecture in New York, get beat up by fascists in Beirut, and still find the time (and stamina) to empty a bottle or two — before getting down to do some serious work?”
- Defiance unto Death: On Mortality by Christopher Hitchens by Morten Høi Jensen