Wednesday, 28 March 2007

The art of criticism

In the latest issue of The Gay and Lesbian Review, there is an interview with Gore Vidal. He includes some comments on book reviews and reviewers but I think that they are equally valid for the humble music critic.

One of his complaints is that the people who write such reviews are nobodies, which for him seems to mean that they have no right to publicise their feelings and opinions. Not sure about this one, perhaps I should simply say discuss? Though he does go on to say that the worst newspaper in England has better book reviewers than The New York Times.

But his most useful comment is one that I'd like to quote in full: Now, what do you do if you have to review a book? The most difficult thing on earth, and most people don't know how difficult it is, because most people can't do it: describe what it was that you read. If you do that properly you don't have to throw adjectives around and make cute noises. Just describe it. The words that you use for the description will lead the criticism. Now if you can plow that in to some heads, you will have done great work. (Gore Vidal quoted in The Gay and Lesbian Review, Volume XIV, Number 2.

I'm certainly going to have to bear that in mind when writing my next CD or opera review.

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