Sunday, May 09, 2004

Reading the Reader 

Terry Teachout, who has been otherwise incommunicado for the last few days, gets a very nice write-up in the Baltimore Sun for his new collection of essays, THE TERRY TEACHOUT READER. This is the paragraph that jumped out at me:

If Teachout has one consistent topic it is genius - great (Louis Armstrong), middling (Dawn Powell) and small (Randolph Scott) - and the majority of pieces collected here - essays, profiles, reviews - reflect that attraction. One charming trait of Teachout the cultural critic is he appears to genuinely want his readers to enjoy what he enjoys (those who read criticism know how rare that is in a critic) or at the very least understand why he so enjoys it.

Victoria Brownworth, who wrote this review, truly hits the nail on the head with this last sentence. While I may be somewhat biased, that quality of showcasing enthusiasm for a particular work and sharing it with everyone around was what originally hooked me on Terry's blog many months ago, back when I only had a passing awareness of who he was and what he did in the first place. A lot of critics seem to derive pleasure only from coding their reviews, taking great care in covering tracks and almost hiding the fact that they might like a book. In some ways, that's taking the easy way out. I suppose it is also easy to be enthusiastic, but it's quite difficult to go beyond mere praise and excitement and convey why the book, musician, work or art, or whatever is being critiqued merits such enthusiasm.

I wish more critics would put themselves on the line and do that. And from perusing The READER essay by essay, I'm trying to dissect how he does it time and time again so I can put more of that quality in my own critiques.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?