Sunday, February 12, 2012

0 out of 10.

More and more, the literary blog hop makes me think back to my undergraduate module in the philosophy of art, aesthetics. Technically, that means I'm actually qualified to talk about these things in great length. But here are ramblings instead, that I do hope make some sense.

In the epilogue for Fargo Rock CityChuck Klosterman writes:

"It's always been my theory that criticism is really just veiled autobiography; whenever someone writes about a piece of art, they're really just writing about themselves."
Do you agree?

There's a huge difference in saying that you think something is good, and that you like something. Some philosophers wouldn't agree with me, but that's too bad for them. An example:

Radiohead are, in musical, technical senses, good.
I do not like Radiohead.

Is this saying something about me? Well, it says that Tom Yorke's voice annoys me, because personally I don't like it. But I'm not going to say that Radiohead are crap, because they actually just aren't.

I'm trying to think of a literary example... but in that sense so often if something isn't actually well-written and good, then I probably won't like it, just because that is part of my criteria for enjoying a book.

So that's that part.

When I'm criticising a novel, what am I really doing?
I'd like to believe that my reviews that bit better than people who say: I didn't like it. 0 of 10. That isn't a review, that's giving an opinion. That's a different ball game. Of course, when I review a book I bring with me all my baggage and expectations - there are my likes and dislikes, and I'm sure I've got some secret prejudices going on somewhere inside me. That all exists before I even open the book. Probably, that will make a difference.

But I try to let it not make a difference. When I criticise, I do just that. Criticising is about really taking a piece of fiction (or art, whatever) apart and examining it for what it is, regardless of any personal issues I might have. Then, I might also choose to give a personal judgement, which is different from criticism. That's me saying, Hey, I Hated That Character Because I Hate Clowns But That's My Opinion. Cause it is. I have a fear of clowns, so I automatically hate the clown character, but I recognise that for what it is and admit it.

So my answer is no. Not if criticism really means critique, and not just an eww or yay answer.