Posts Tagged: Criticism

Men Unsettled by Woman's Poems

Patricia Lockwood's new book of poetry, Motherland Fatherland Homelandsexuals, came out last week. There have been a handful of reviews in mainstream outlets, like in the New York Times, where Dwight Garner calls it "a satirical work that nonetheless brings your heart up under your ears." His criticism, such as it is, notes, "When her poems miss, which they frequently do, their ideas seem larval and merely cute." It concludes, "little hairs on my back rose often while reading 'Motherland Fatherland Homelandsexuals,' as if it were the year of the big wind. That’s biological praise, the most fundamental kind, impossible to fake."

But then are there some [...]


I'm Nobody: Eve Sedgwick After Death

Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick would have been 63 today. Four years have passed since her death, but her absence is felt more, not less, with each. More than ever Sedgwick’s writing generates further writing and thinking from those who engage with it.

Sedgwick once said about reading affect theorist Silvan Tomkins: "I often get tired when I’m learning a lot." Her writing has the same effect—calming and invigorating—generative and tireless even if also sometimes tiring. In her posthumous collection, The Weather In Proust (2011), Sedgwick remarks that one form of antinormative reading can lead to many other types of theorizing—this is exactly how I feel about Sedgwick’s work. Forever [...]


Is Rick Moody Too Wealthy to Criticize Taylor Swift?

People are angry that Rick Moody has opined that Taylor Swift's music is ten kinds of commercial suck. Their beef is this bit: That it will not matter that we all will realize that she is terrible, "because her parents work in finance, and she has good manners, and she’s going to marry up, and she’s going to get into the movies (not just guest appearances in CSI), and she’s going to launch some clothing lines at Target (no, wait, I think she already did that), and a personal fragrance (I think she did that too), and parlay all her bad press into some self-serious complaints, making good [...]


When Food Critics Narc Out Waiters

I waited on Frank Bruni and three others on his second-to-last visit to Graydon Carter’s Monkey Bar back in 2009, and unwittingly provided him with the kicker to his one-star review (the restaurant had been aiming for two)…. This, to me, is one of the stranger outcomes of restaurant reviews: that waiters are sometimes treated like they work in the public interest, or something. But as people argue over whether the New York Times is being classist in its scathing review of Guy Fieri’s restaurant, I’d like to point out the quieter classism that is inherent to the restaurant review: that very dispensable service employees are outed for [...]


Introducing The Thomas Kinkade Drinking Game

Of all the months we've looked at so far, the August image in the Thomas Kinkade 2012 calendar may be the most quintessentially Kinkadian. The lighthouse. The cottage. The trademark glow. This one should have been effortless to critique. But when I started typing out notes, I realized that I was done with critiquing his work. No more Kinkade analysis! Could I possibly say anything new about a man who basically painted the same thing hundreds of times? The mere thought of the task started to bring on a headache. Since it's summer, I decided that it was time to have some fun with him for a change. It was [...]


A Short History Of Book Reviewing's Long Decline

There have been enough essays on the death of book reading, but have there been enough words devoted to discussing the decline of book reviewing? In the last decade or so—yes, indeed, as we've all wrestled with how the internet influences everything we do, including reading, writing, and writing about books (Tolstoy LOL tl;dr). But while the words "book-review" made its first print appearance as a headline in 1861 to just that—a review of a book titled How to Talk: A Pocket of Speaking, Conversation, and Debating (verdict: "The present work has the additional recommendation of an unmistakably useful subject, which is lucidly treated")—the practice of criticizing the critics [...]


Pop Quiz: Edith Wharton? Or "Girls" Review?

1. “New York’s not very friendly to strange girls, is it? I suppose you’ve got so many of your own already—and they’re all so fascinating you don’t care!”

2. “The chief characteristic of her generation is a kind of creative solipsism: nothing is better material than the absurdities and contradictions of her own life. Successfully mining personal experience of underachievement has, of course, its ironies.”

3. "As a girl, you are a delicate glass vase, waiting to be broken. You are a sweet-smelling flower, waiting for life’s hobnailed boots to trample you. That built-in suspense is part of your appeal."

4. "It is less mortifying to [...]


The Firehose Of Certainty

I recently finished a gig which entailed looking at and writing about the well-appointed homes of various New Yorkers, which made me eager to do something to make my own home more well-appointed. We have glass front bookcases in the dining room, which doubles as playroom for my two kids, and is also where I work. The bookcases are crammed with books and trinkets, and toys are everywhere; it’s a riot of visual stimuli.

I decided to buy some fabric to pin under the glass. I went to eBay, where I was drowning in options: an insane modern toile by Alizée Freudenthal, a graphic Greek key, a bright [...]


The Perverse Secret Agenda of the Restaurant Critic

Last February, an iteration of the Olive Garden restaurant chain opened in Grand Forks, North Dakota. "The place is impressive," Marilyn Hagerty wrote in her curiously favorable review for the Grand Forks Herald. "The chicken Alfredo ($10.95) was warm and comforting on a cold day. The portion was generous." Hagerty's review consisted almost entirely of declarative statements of fact about the restaurant's décor, the size of its menu's portions, and practical background info intended for prospective diners. Reactions to Hagerty's subdued encomium ran the gamut of cosmopolitan condescension: from delight in her earnest sincerity to heartfelt pity.

Then in November, Pete Wells, restaurant critic for the New York [...]


Goodbye, Anecdotes! The Age Of Big Data Demands Real Criticism

If you think of all the information encoded in the universe from your genome to the furthest star, from the information that's already there, codified or un-codified, to the information pregnant in every interaction, "big" has become the measure of data. And our capacity to produce and collect Big Data in the digital age is very big indeed. Every day, we produce 2.5 exabytes of information, the analysis of which will, supposedly, make us healthier, wiser, and above all, wealthier—although it's all a bit fuzzy as to what, exactly, we're supposed to do with 2.5 exabytes of data—or how we're supposed to do whatever it is that we're supposed to [...]


Defending Manhattan From America: Pete Wells and Guy Fieri

yup. RT @samfbiddle: @max_read @mattlanger @maura also horrible things that exploit stupid people deserve to be ridiculed into destruction

— Silvia Killingsworth (@silviakillings) November 14, 2012

Last night, or in "today's paper" if that is how you roll, Times restaurant critic Pete Wells bombed Guy Fieri's new garbage hut in Times Square with a zero-star review and the Internet kind of exploded over it with glee.

This food shack does in fact sound truly terrible! I fortunately already knew that I would not need to eat there, long before the Times saw fit to inform me. Which, then, I have questions: is [...]


"Micro Apartments" and the Nefarious Rezoning of New York

Looking forward to community board meeting about Midtown East rezoning. City envisioning vast upzoning that will change skyline. Good idea?

— Michael Kimmelman (@kimmelman) July 11, 2012

Glad the Bloomberg Admin is pursuing zoning change to allow smaller apartments + address growing demand in NYC for affordable studios.

— Michael Kimmelman (@kimmelman) July 10, 2012

I love me some Michael Kimmelman, even when he is profoundly wrong, in his new role as Times architecture critic, about how New York City does and should work. (Though when he's right, he's right! People should be rioting over the $4-BILLION World Trade Center PATH station!) He [...]


An Analysis of the Thomas Kinkade Calendar for May and June

Well, this is awkward. But before we start, let me say: R.I.P. Thomas Kinkade, who died last month. While all of the circumstances surrounding his later life and sudden death may never be fully known to the public, it's clear that he was carrying some demons in addition to his talent and ambition. It's also clear that his painting had become an effective way to mask those demons. Thomas Kinkade the Message was supposed to be the proxy for Thomas Kinkade the Man, but Thomas Kinkade the Marketer overruled them both. But while he's gone, his monthly calendar is still a thing, and so, yes, this column is still [...]


An Analysis of the Thomas Kinkade Calendar for April

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,” wrote Robert Frost, famously. Could he have been thinking of the yellow wood of “The Aspen Chapel,” featured as the April image in the Thomas Kinkade 2012 calendar? Clearly we have two paths—the familiar unpaved country road on the right-hand side and the sweetly babbling brook on the left. But why two paths, from a painter who has previously perfected and fetishized the depiction of the single charming path? Is there a man vs. nature duality theme here? Is there meaning to the fact that, pictorially speaking, the road gets abruptly cut off by the right end of the frame, while the [...]


Critic More

"I’ve always said there needs to be more criticism in food writing, especially in food magazines. That doesn’t mean we need more negativity. That means we need more critical thinking… People lament we live in an era where everyone’s a critic; what I lament is that everyone isn’t."


Spoilers, Screenerbrags and Squabbles: How Film Critics Use Twitter

Venn diagram review of "LA RELIGIEUSE" and "VIC+FLO ONT VU UN OURS" #Berlinale…

— Stephanie Zacharek (@szacharek) February 10, 2013

This year, the Tribeca Film Festival hosted a conversation between Will Leitch and Dana Stevens on how social media—and Twitter specifically—has affected the work of film criticism. On the subject of sharing thoughts after screenings, Leitch emphasized that he has always set aside time for reflection after a film instead of rushing into forming an opinion, while Stevens jokingly remarked that, for professional critics, pre-tweeting before a review feels like "stealing from yourself."

In light of [...]


David Edelstein's Enduring Fixation On Keira Knightley's Jaw, Documented

• "But it's hard to hate her too much when she wriggles into a fetching halter, paints herself green, and picks up a bow and arrow, determinedly setting that long fish jaw."—Review of King Arthur, July 7, 2004

• "… Domino is perpetual motion in a vacuum. It's not the fault of This Year's White Girl, young Keira Knightley, who sticks out her long jaw…"—Review of Domino, Oct. 13, 2005

• "…working that long jaw like an impudent guppy…"—Review of Pride & Prejudice, Nov. 11, 2005

• "Keira Knightley's magic inflatable jaw!"—Review of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, July 6, 2006


Critics Who Explain Things

There was, you know, a time when arguing about arguing actually felt vital. Really! To wit: In 1975, Susan Sontag wrote an essay on Leni Riefenstahl for The New York Review of Books. It was not her first comment on the director of the Triumph of the Will. She had, earlier, written of Riefenstahl's work in more admiring terms in Against Interpretation: "The Nazi propaganda is there. But something else is there, too, which we reject at our loss." But this time she'd been asked to review a book of Riefenstahl's photography of the Nuba tribes in Sudan, and the bland indifference of the jacket copy provoked her.

It [...]


An Analysis of the Thomas Kinkade Calendar for July

"I have something in common with Norman Rockwell," Thomas Kinkade once reflected. "I like to make people happy." Right, and that's also why Krispy Kreme makes sugary donuts and why Joe Francis makes "Girls Gone Wild" DVDs. Regardless, nobody would argue too much against the fact that Kinkade, the fine art painter, is considered in the same "American populist" category as Rockwell, the magazine illustrator. However, Rockwell also confessed that "I am a story teller." And this is where the similarities abruptly end between Rockwell and the man who so badly wanted to be mentioned in the same breath as his idol.

The July page in [...]


Happy 50th Birthday, Restaurant Criticism

"Claiborne observed everything when he was reviewing, but ultimately he judged restaurants by what came out of the kitchen. As this idea caught on, it became harder to confuse the country’s best restaurants with the ones that were merely favored by the aristocracy. A different hierarchy in dining, ordered by creativity and excellence in cuisine, was slowly taking shape under the guidance of a new aristocracy: an aristocracy of taste. Today, we call members of this aristocracy 'foodies.'” —I wish we didn't, as that word only makes me think of children's pajamas, which are distinctly unappetizing, and which I am sad to learn that they also make for adults. [...]