Mike’s Prattle

Miscellaneous

Criticism

Posted by Mike on March 24, 2006

Locus online has posted the first chapter of Gary Wolfe's Soundings. Wolfe is probably the best critic in the speculative fiction field other than John Clute and the article/introduction discusses a lot of important facets about criticism as a legitimate enterprise. Comparing the speculative fiction field to that of the progressive music field is always enlightening, given the abysmally poor state of most progressive music criticism.

Wolfe states, "… another temptation the reviewer sometimes faces is the temptation to review a book's readership rather than the book itself, especially when that readership seems singularly undemanding." This speaks to the main issue I have with a lot of online criticism. In the progressive music field references abound to "intelligentsia" and "prognoscenti" and other mysterious, unidentified groups of purported experts, as if the idea of criticism was a popularity contest and the implication that the best way to pose one's opinion is by casting aspersions on the opinions of others. I'm of the opinion good criticism tackles the subject in question without introducing elements of cliqueishness and hipster self-adulation. Reviews that address the clothes, styles and personal habits of the stereotypical audience of any genre only tell us about the reviewer's bias and aesthetic handicaps.

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