Date: March 26, 2023 10:52AM
Done & Done Wrote:
> "The thing I love most about the movies is their
> ability to obliterate reason and abolish taste.
Nice eye, D.
Taste and reason are precisely what can be recovered upon leaving LDSinc. Also, are what develops when we turn off the flickering image and open a book.
But not always. Take A.O. Scott, whose mind is a victim of his job, an example of déformation professionnelle. His work exemplifies our intellectual culture after 9-11, glib and empty. Intelligent sentences that add up to nothing. Leon Wieseltier, reviewing an A.O. Scott book (2016), gets him and our time right:
“The interest of Scott’s book lies not in its contribution to the solution of the problems it treats [criticism], but in its exemplification of our moment in American culture and American cultural journalism. It is an accurate document of the discourse of “takes.” This movie, that book, this poem, that painting, this record, that show: Make a smart remark and move on. A take is an opinion that has no aspiration to a belief, an impression that never hardens into a position. Its lightness is its appeal. It is provisional, evanescent, a move in a game, an accredited shallowness, a bulwark against a pause in the conversation. A take is expected not to be true but to be interesting, and even when it is interesting it makes no troublesome claim upon anybody’s attention. Another take will quickly follow, and the silence that is a mark of perplexity, of research and reflection, will be mercifully kept at bay. A take asks for no affiliation. It requires no commitment.”https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2016/03/ao-scott-critic-without-a-cause/426828/
They say Scott is moving on to review books…
Read Mary McCarthy, Elizabeth Hardwick, Joan Didion, Susan Sontag, just for example, and compare their essays to anything from the left hand column at Arts & Letters Daily and try not to despair. Compare Pauline Kael, even in her later, bullying style, to A.O. Scott, and…
By the way, Pauline Kael is now enshrined in the Library of America, but nothing she wrote was as intelligent as Renata Adler’s famous NYRB take down of her from 1980. Snippet:
“Now, When the Lights Go Down, a collection of her reviews over the past five years, is out; and it is, to my surprise and without Kael- or Simon-like exaggeration, not simply, jarringly, piece by piece, line by line, and without interruption, worthless. It turns out to embody something appalling and widespread in the culture. Over the years, that is, Ms. Kael’s quirks, mannerisms, tics, and excesses have not only taken over her work so thoroughly that hardly anything else, nothing certainly of intelligence or sensibility, remains; they have also proved contagious, so that the content and level of critical discussion, of movies but also of other forms, have been altered astonishingly for the worse.”
—“The Perils of Pauline” [essay behind a paywall]—
If things were that bad in 1980, how bad were they in 2016 let alone today? Or is this simply a case of the sky is always falling?
I’d like to tie all this together but I gotta run. Thank you as always for the invitation to think, D & D,