Sunday, April 19, 2009

Critical Thinking -Adam Gopnik on Dr. Johnson

Adam Gopnik in the New Yorker, writes vividly about Dr. Johnson, the first modern personality. (Dec 8, 2008 issue. A good article is never dated.)

"The critic's job was to distinguish between what belonged to the history of taste and what belonged to the canon of art, and try to explain what made the permanently pleasing permanently please. For Johnson's great question is not how to write, or what to write, but why write. His criticism provides a simple answer: To help us enjoy life more, or endure it better.

Johnson has no illusions about criticism's ability to fix or cure. Critics are to writers not as doctors are to patients but as bearded ladies are to trapeze artists- another, sadder act in the same big show. 

"Every man can exert such judgment as he has upon the work of others; and he whom nature has made weak, and idleness keeps ignorant may yet support his vanity by the name of a critic," he wrote.

I now have a new way of thinking about art critics..... another sadder act in the same big show. Beards and all.

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