Monday, February 21, 2011

I'm sorry you didn't like it; or, criticising the critic

My strange and sick fascination with the overrated writers kerfuffle is waning. I have a short attention span and it's such a little tiny drama. Like rubbernecking at two people swapping insurance information; sure, there was an accident, but it was so insignificant as to be inconsequential. "Oh, look at the ding on the door there. I bet that's gonna cost a couple hundred bucks at least! The paint is even chipped!" It's only interesting because it's in your neighborhood. Some of the neighbors[1] are still real excited. What can I say? Not much happens around here.

I wouldn't have noticed if I didn't follow J. Bradley[2] and Brad Green[3] on Twitter. (I don't know them; I just like their poems.)

At first there were some maybe interesting ideas about criticism, its value and its duty, what constitutes good. Nothing smashingly original, mind. It quickly descended into frenzied ego frottage, smarmy and boring in equal parts. And no, I'm not going to write an entire essay explaining why. Fuck that noise.

See, I think we live in a post-critical society. Hardly anyone fucking cares. Nobody has the time.

Jason Jordan's post[4] is exactly what the philistine masses[5] want: "This book is awesome," or "This CD sucked." (Outside a handful of fanboys demanding justification because they want something to refute.) Not long, thoughtful essays following a sandwich formula, fairly balancing careful explanations of the positives and the negatives. Just tell me if it's a waste of time and or money and let me get on with my bad self.

As a reader, I want star ratings, maybe a couple sentences. I don't need five thousand words of literary theory amounting to "Look! I have an MFA!" That shit takes longer to read than the book would. Lengthy, girthy criticism is just a reader dressing up their personal experience with a work as authoritative. Don't get me wrong, it's fun to probe and analyze. But it's still just intellectual wank and arguing about it is like arguing over whose spunk has more validity.

Personal taste--not everything needs to be a debate. It's okay to just like something, or not, without fucking dissertating all over everything. There is no obligation, express or implied, to explain why.

But people take it real personal when someone dogs shit they like. Go ahead, say something bad about Justin Bieber. I dare you.

The whole thing brought me back around to a discussion I had about lit-punk and just not giving a fuck what other people think. We were talking about writing.

What I think, maybe we need to be more punk in our reading, too.

[1] "If you don't have anything nice to say..." (PANK); "Internet graffiti and its discontents" (Big Other); "In which I join the bandwagon" (Robert Swartwood)
[2] @iheartfailure (who blogged about the increasing metaness of it all)
[3] @Green_Brad
[4] "5 Overrated writers" (Jason Jordan and His Blog)
[5] I include myself in that.