A Critic’s Manifesto (Daniel Mendelsohn)

"Do Critics Matter Today?" Page 2

The bright but abrogating review does it’s own sort of reverence to artists: grave artists, in writer, Daniel Mendelsohn, “want only to be reviewed intelligently, rather than showered with vacuous raves—not least, because serious artists learn from serious reviews.”

His veridicality in this vulnerability is endearing and disarms him right away; he soon after perseveres on to say:

“There is usually something to like in even the weakest work—just as there is nearly always some weakness in the strongest work; most reviews, if anything, should be somewhat mixed,” said Daniel Mendelsohn.

The literary reviewer should first of all self-criticize: he should start by investigating his own repercussions, when they are opposed, and verify that they are legitimate which is to say, should abstain from addressing matters or virtuosi for whom he has a disdain that is not stimulated by tasteful deliberations.

People, who have staunch responses to a piece yet don’t influence the broader enlightenment that can give a viewpoint heft, are not critics, neither are those who have enormous erudition but lack the inclination or disposition that could make their discernment rule in the eyes of other people, folks who are not professional connoisseurs.

Like any other classification of writing, criticism is a model that one has to have a knack for, and the people who have a knack for it are those whose observation intercrosses interestingly and persuasively with their taste.

To read a review by a critic, when you quarreled with them, their sapiences had power because they were grounded in something more concrete, more accessible to other people, than “feelings” or “impressions. ” It wasn’t that these people were Ph.D.s that the ability and power marked on every page of their writing originated from recognition hanging on an office wall.

This authority doesn’t sit right for me. Why should passion and opinion establish authority?

Is it because they should in fact be authorities for their presumed promise of self-criticism?

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