Monday, May 21, 2007

What, Haven't Heard of Saint-Beuve?

What a great way to start the day! This is Time magazine's film critic Richard Schickel making a complete fool of himself:

Let me put this bluntly, in language even a busy blogger can understand: Criticism — and its humble cousin, reviewing — is not a democratic activity. It is, or should be, an elite enterprise, ideally undertaken by individuals who bring something to the party beyond their hasty, instinctive opinions of a book (or any other cultural object). It is work that requires disciplined taste, historical and theoretical knowledge and a fairly deep sense of the author's (or filmmaker's or painter's) entire body of work, among other qualities.

I have little interest in the blogs vs. mainstream media debates but I found this particular rant a little interesting mainly because he mentions the name of Saint-Beuve:
But instead, let's think about what reviewing ought to be. For example, French critic Charles-Augustin Sainte-Beuve, a name not much bruited in the blogosphere, I'll warrant. In the middle of the 19th century, his reviews appeared every Monday for 28 years. He was a humane, tolerant and relentlessly curious man who once summarized his method in two words: "Just characterization."

Whoa! I feel so great now. I did mention Saint-Beuve on this blog. Only once if I remember. (I am too embarrassed to link to it now. It was something related to Proust and the characters of Bergotte and Monsieur de Norpois in his novel.) So I am admitted to the holy elitist circles frequented by Richard Schickel and his ilk after all!

Seriously what an idiot. I wonder how many reviews he wrote last year which initiated "informed dialogue" that he is talking about. I don't know if it was he or his other illustrious colleague at Time Richard Corliss who praised Devdas because of the "fabulous frocks" and "the beautiful people who fill them." That's the kind of film criticism that these supposed disciples of Saint-Beuve would like more of.

Link via House Next Door and a hilarious quick response here.


Donald Douglas said...

That is a great post title! I wrote about Schickel's L.A. Times piece as well. Come on over for a visit!

Burkean Reflections

Vidya said...

LOL, I missed this post (because of that obscurantist St. Beuve title) and came across this same article and blogged about the same thing yesterday!

Vidya said...

May be I batted for the wrong team.But I do think most reviews (including my own) on the blogosphere are quite below par. Mishmash copy-pastes, wikipedia links, influenced opinions, peripheral readings etc.

Alok said...

donald: thanks for visiting and leaving comment. will check your blog too.

vidya: have replied on your blog.