« Home | Because I have been sleeping badly lately » | I only want one night » | You've done hell for me » | The Neil Young approach » | I'm losing your train of thought » | You might call it the aesthetic object » | Eat it, Cameron » | "that capturing of the body by the pulse" » | You got to give an account at the judgment » | Seven Soldiers of Scotland? » 

Thursday, March 25, 2010 

"an act firmly grounded in pleasure"

If you're not a maker/consumer of criticism, then this post by Glenn Kenny on Scott Eaton's 33 1/3 book on Big Star and this post by Keith Phipps on Kevin Smith being a jerk might not seem to be about the same thing. But they really are. And wonderfully, because both Kenny and Phipps are good critics as well as good writers, they're not only a spirited defense against people who don't "get" the critical impulse - they're good evocations of why people would want to engage in the stuff (by either writing or reading it), both in terms of personal pleasure (the title of this post comes from one of the comments on Kenny's post) and artistic merit.

Which is to say that while they share some of the same insights, those posts are the polar opposite of Armond White's typically sour-minded, high-toned speech on a similar subject. The problem with White, always, is that while he may say true and wise things some of the time, he says them in such an aggrieved, superior way that it's hard to want to listen to him. I'm sure he takes the "stony silence" he received as proof that he is espousing hard, unpopular truths. But the truth is, people hate White not because he upsets their comfortable truths and mores, but because he writes like an hectoring asshole.

I don't care what films he likes or dislikes, or what sort of moral or political stance he adduces from them; like the serious critic that he is, he's always able to back up his contrarianism. And I certainly don't care whether he's a jerk in person or not - I've never met him and probably won't, and I'm a firm believer than you can't judge art by judging artists. What I care about is the way White writes as if it's a moral failing to have tastes that differ from his. Sure, White engages, deeply and perceptively, with the movies, but he never does so with the people he's writing at (and it always seems like at, never to or for). He does, in fact, write like he's trying to kill our buzz, and that's fatal for a critic.

That Armond White thing lost me at "This Is It" as a great cultural achievement. I liked "This Is It" as much as anyone- but it's just a documentary of Michael Jackson rehearsing. That's all there is to it. He always manages to say supremely dumb things and you feel he's only saying them to piss you off. "Sandra Bullock sould have won the Oscar for her fearless, daring work in 'All About Steve'- although that movie could have done more for the plight of black people." Huh>

Did he really say that? He seems like a parody of himself so often that I can never tell the real from the satire these days.

Post a Comment

Links to this post

Create a Link

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial Share Alike 2.5 Canada License.

About me

Ian Mathers is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in Stylus, the Village Voice, Resident Advisor, PopMatters, and elsewhere. He does stuff and it magically appears here.

Contact Me:
imathers at gmail dot com

My profile
Powered by Blogger
and Blogger Templates