The Critic's Art
I continue to fail to understand why the work of talented critics seems to taste like medicine to readers (and too many editors) when it can be as tonic as David Thomson's review of a new bio of Christopher Isherwood in the 3/21 TNR (and, damn, it's subscription only on-line!). It's a positive take on the book, but it's so sustained by what Thomson himself brings to the feast - his own knowledge of Isherwood's work and life, his own insights into movies and the photographic record and how we read them, and a good deal more - that even if you have no prior investment in the subject, it looks so luscious, smells so good, you want to run out and buy it and have a taste yourself.
A piece like this isn't flackery, and it isn't snark; it throws off flares of its own, and - to my mind - it's generous to the reader, throwing lifelines to a host of related subjects. The synthesis is, itself, exciting. Googling can't reproduce that kind of critical sensibility. I am still pissed at Salon for dumping Charles Taylor, because he has similar reach (and you can reality check me here by going to his stuff in their archives). Writers like Thomson and Taylor bring back the savor, and make you realize that every flavor isn't articifial.
Sometimes you need a shot of the hard stuff (it's been one of those weekends around here), and with a nudge from Norbizness, and a link from The Agitator, I got to hear Cartman deliver The Joke ("Just wait, Kyle.") - [7/30 - that link does not work anymore - f&%k!]. The notion of variations on this one in a 90-minute doc is pretty overwhelming - I hope they stock stretchers at the theaters to carry out the wounded.
[And I don't know where it went, but Wolcott [Correction: it was Frank Rich - my bad! Apologies to VF for suspicions...} had a recent post on this subject that seems to have disappeared - sticky fingers at VF?]