Today I Noticed: Criticism

The times that I have heard ‘anyone can criticize, only a special few can create,’ or some other deformed relation to the sentence, cannot be counted. I’m not sure if it’s a devastating commentary about myself. It probably is. I should find other worlds to read and exist in. Others, terribly unaware of their own irony, choose to regurgitate Benjamin Franklin’s (apocryphal?) quote “Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain, and most fools do.” Some, marginally more learned, will turn to Diderot. “What a dull and dreary trade is that of critic, it is so difficult to create a thing, even a mediocre thing; it is so easy to detect mediocrity.” I’ll give Diderot a pass because, unlike Franklin, he never touched these American shores. Shores that disprove his epigram because if there is any constant to modern American life it is the absence of good criticism while absolute nonsense is pandered about with a recklessness whose only redeeming quality is its honesty. It’s honestly bad. In the land of (I hope you hear the capital letters) Special Snowflakes filled with Serious Ideas about Serious Topics the one person whose skepticism gets the better of him or her is the Know-Nothing. He, or she, is the slammer of doors on the precious idealists filled with all sorts of imaginative (read: peculiar) ideas.

Gore Vidal once identified poor work’s defining trait as requiring “Our memories” to round the “flat portraits; our prejudices do the author’s work.” How often do you, dear reader, find your memory and prejudices doing the work for the writer? When the French New Novelists yearned for the day when the author would be joined in creation by the reader I hope, even pray, that they did not mean the flow that we all see around us. I have spent too long looking for that shy aphorism. The scarab in the desert is priceless because it is a gem and the desert is vast. The lone and level sands stretch far away. The sentences become more and more complex as the ideas (‘privilege’) become simpler. I spend a few moments looking through some of the choicer topics on tumblr, on WordPress, on news aggregators and especially those sites where fairness is ritually praised but not learned. I realize with a sinking suspicion that there is not one pen in the world that is willing to be a little biting. The internet is a democracy and every person, every sentence, is alike. Sadly, however, that is not reflective of reality. It is not a window to the world outside but it is a depressing mirror. Mistaking one for the other is an understandable mistake.

If you, dear reader, are feeling an ounce of fortitude I urge you to look around WordPress. Look at those who are putting effort into their Unique Ideas (unique, not in the classic sense but in the more modern sense where everything is ‘a little’ unique) ideas. It’s not pleasant. Some of you dear readers create and create well enough. You know who you are.

5 thoughts on “Today I Noticed: Criticism

  1. Too many of us, and I do include myself, tend to pay far too much attention to our stats and write for the lowest common denominator, in the misapprehension (I hope) that quantity has a quality all it own, as used to be said of the Red Army. But, it does not lead to memorable writing, as you note.

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