To Criticize the Critic

Notes from the Grid: To Criticize the Critic Human Voices Wake Us

An episode from 5/2/22: Tonight, I continue my five-part series called Notes from the Grid. (A print version of NFTG has since been published.) It asks why we grant so much authority and influence to reviewers and criticism—is it because so few of us will ever create a lasting work of art, but all of us find it easy to express our opinions, on everything from Dante to reality TV?

In the second half of the episode (beginning at about 27:02), a chance remark from the actor Richard Burton prompts a handful of important questions on creativity. What is it about the public face of creativity that demands a prolific output, or finishing anything at all? Why do we expect our most powerful creators to also be able to talk fluently, like some scripted newscaster, about what they’ve done? Why do we demand manifestos, rallying cries, and the certainty of split-off schools, groups, and tribes?

The excerpt I play from an interview with George Steiner comes from a 1996 episode of Desert Island Discs.

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