A Critic Is Like a Eunuch…

… in a bakery. Is that how it goes? Whatever.

A.O. Scott would disagree with that metaphor, as he explains in his new book, Better Living Through Criticism. Fangirl Alissa Wilkinson reviews it.

Like a parent reconciling bickering siblings, Scott contends that criticism and art don’t merely need one another. They exist only because of one another: “criticism, far from sapping the vitality of art, is instead what supplies its lifeblood…”

Doesn’t interpreting art ruin the experience? Can’t we just appreciate it for what it is? “This is an old and powerful—in some ways an unanswerable—argument against criticism, rooted in the idea that creative work should be taken on its own terms and that thought is the enemy of experience,” Scott writes. “And it is indeed precisely the job of the critic to disagree, to refuse to look at anything simply as what it is, to insist on subjecting it to intellectual scrutiny.”

Because there are such things as good and bad metaphors, good and bad headlines, and compelling and lackluster stories. Critics can engage a piece on a different level than we have and challenge us to think about it and our reaction to it, which is close to, if not the same thing as, what artists do.

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