The Only Critic That Matters

Sorry, other critics.

Photo: Thomas8047

Is Pete Wells the last critic who can actually make a difference with his criticism? You can easily affirm the argument that he is the only dining critic who counts anymore — and with the Times fully committed to being a paper for the wealthy international elite, his beat is no longer restricted to the greatest city in the world, so his influence is even greater— and it might not be that much of a stretch to say that all the other disciplines in which critics ply their trade are no longer relevant, from an assessment standpoint: Book criticism is bad (read three reviews of the same book and you will notice that the reviewers all use an identical quote from the first chapter, which will have been somewhere in the promotional materials attached to the galley, and then make an effort to show that they actually know more about the book’s subject than its author, before issuing a mostly positive verdict), music criticism, in an age when everyone can listen to everything not long after a reviewer could, is irrelevant, television criticism is full of people who feel defensive that they spend so much time watching TV and are desperately trying to convince themselves that it’s the new literature, and theater criticism is… I don’t know, when’s the last time you read theater criticism? Maybe it’s fine? But you don’t hear a lot of people talking about the most recent musical takedown, do you?

So yes, Pete Wells, dining critic of the New York Times, is the final critic standing, and if a bunch of dining and dining-adjacent people get upset about that it only means they know it’s true. In any event, here’s a very fun profile of America’s last major critic from the New Yorker, which has so many amusing little bits that I would not know which one to pull out, but there is a thing about Manhattan and Queens that I very much appreciated. This is definitely something you will enjoy, so while you are pretending to readjust to your workday you should read it. [Vaguely related: As someone who has been able to, when necessary, induce vomiting simply by reading the words “Personal History” aloud, I was shocked by how much I enjoyed Burkhard Bilger’s piece in the same issue. Bilger’s own personal history is a very small part of it, so do not be afraid. Anyway, this issue of the magazine comes out swinging into fall, check it out.]