21 August 2011

I've actually been working on some reviews of recent books of poetry.. six in all, for here or elsewhere. Three of them are positive, one is mixed, two are negative. I'm thinking of making one of the positives more mixed and giving one of the negatives a better consideration. I did "Friday capsules" a while back and was going to do five the following week, but wanted to re-read a book I was going to pan, that I read but didn't buy, but never did so.

I have criticized logrolling, but I think if logrolling were a major crisis people would react differently to it. If you don't like the state of criticism, do it better. Obviously as someone who has defended Silliman's blogging, that was for me sort of a formative experience of contemporary criticism, and I was motivated by respect for him, but not so formative as I thought there was anything unusual going on, as I expected there to be some backlashes against what he was doing. A lot of the "lack" of negative criticism of small press books arises from the feeling that they are up against enough. But Silliman's crit often took the form of criticizing the stylistic foundations of works that were well realized, which is often the most useful negative criticism rather than "so-and-so is a lightweight." Cahiers du Cinema, when negative, criticized the foundations of works that were well realized.

I don't think film or art criticism has done much to improve those genre. The negative reviews of Andrew Sarris seem suspect to me, even if his positive reviews make me want to see a film. What film reviews do best is publicize the product in the newspapers, but this has comprehensively resulted in a declining medium. Most negative art reviews I read are garbage. Frank O'Hara's art commentary, such as it was, set the standard for only being positive in what he said, even when quietly acting to impose limitations on the medium. Ashbery says he only reviews art that he is very interested in, i.e. positive. The others in that town mostly followed suit. There is no golden age of literary criticism. Thomas Mann presumably writing Lukacs into the Magic Mountain was contrary to pattern, the way most good things are in this racket. What we have now is a vast improvement over what we had 40 years ago.

But in general I have been trying to focus on finishing up creative things in recent months and my internet interactions have been unfortunately limited to responding to things that really irritate me. I have enjoyed some recently published books. I would perhaps like at some point to get a lot of free books in the mail and gab about them, but I have difficulty - or cultivate difficulty - with what I'm writing as it is, and don't need to seek out more distraction.

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