Friday, September 28, 2007

The critics

Over on the Guardian's CiF there was a recent post by Nicholas Lezard on Jordan outselling the whole Booker list. C'est la vie. But the bit that caught my eye was from one of the rabid commenters - that army of mudpeople who crawl around the CiF abusing anyone who dares write anything. The appropriately named Trilobite had this to say about criticism: 'there is no such thing as literary quality. There are books that you like and there are books that you dislike.'

I've always thought that the least interesting thing you can say about any book or indeed work of art is whether you like it or not. I mean really, who cares. But there is such a thing as literary quality because great books open up worlds and ideas and insights that other books don't and it is through criticism that we can discuss and articulate them. This is a great CiF piece here on the need for good, creative criticism with a quote from Oscar Wilde that answers Trilobite's vapid comment:

"Surely, criticism is itself an art ... Criticism is, in fact both creative and independent ... The antithesis between them is entirely arbitrary. Without the critical faculty, there is no artistic creation at all, worthy of the name."

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