Essay on Criticism
The meeting of artist and material creates
style, the meeting of style and spectator creates criticism. In all the world
the abundance of style is the fiercest obstacle to comprehension; hence the
critic, who either boils it all down to a sensibility undergoing torments of
indecision on the rack of material intractability, or puts his pigeons in their
cote all tucked up for the long night before the big race with good odds he has
The Case of the Cruddy Critic: Perry Mason does not deal in fabulous prestidigitations, he does not pull a rabbit out of his chapeau the astute Iowan might have spotted bounding in; as fixed as a sonnet (as variable, as universal) the story goes of roust and mayhem and gumshoe (the inestimable Drake!) and assemblage (the profound Street!) and intimations of pure genius (Gertie!) until the truth is revealed amongst the flotsam and jetsam of history balking reason at first glance, pr'aps.
It's the best we can do, brooking the fjord-happy moraines that come upon us, gay and delightsome to be hitting the surf long Zarathustra'd up the summit in the all-unknown, there to be wankered and pressed and squiggled by the Muses, only to bathe in the springs other-than-Castalian here-below, received alas! into the blue uncelestial by us, critics.
How sort this out? We have not seen this thing before (says Beckett), it is not Art, if we know our onions.
"Paint this rhythm, not this thing" says Nemerov translating Mallarmé with an aplomb derived from Carl Sandburg of women easy to look at Frenchmen call "Belles Rivières." "Don't paint the thing, but the effect it makes."