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Death of the critic?

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wendy
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Death of the critic?

Post by wendy » Sun January 30th, 2011, 2:29 pm

A thought-provoking article in the British newspaper The Observer:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/culture/2011/ ... ritic-over

Do you agree that there has been a "decline in critical authority" especially in the US?
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Divia
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Post by Divia » Sun January 30th, 2011, 2:49 pm

I think professional critics are on their way out because their power is fading. Before you could only hear their opinion in newspapers or on TV, but with the birth of the internet now anyone has the ability to post their opinion on books, movies, TV etc. etc.

The question do I gravitate to those who share my opinion? Doubtful. I gravitate to those who read HF novels because we have a shared interest. Do I blindly listen to bogs because they review HF novels. Nope. Now, one could argue people follow Fox News or MSNBC news, but really that's a different.

We all know that people watch movie critics and always scratch their head. We, the public, enjoy fast moving films with things blowing up etc. etc. They like slow moving artsy fartsy things that people don't want to watch.
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fljustice
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Post by fljustice » Sun January 30th, 2011, 7:07 pm

There was so much meat in that article, that I'll need a long time to digest it. As to your initial question about the "decline of critical authority," I think it's a mixed bag. People still watch the movie review shows and the "best-seller" lists are still important. It's true in the US that there has been a relentless drumbeat against "the elites" by the social fundamentalists. Being "smart", at anything other than making money, seems to be a badge of dishonor in some media outlets, which seem to venerate the wisdom of Joe the Plumber.

Americans have always had a love/hate relationship with "elites." We love to watch elite athletes, follow the lives of elite actors, read the books of elite authors...and by "elite" I mean those that make the most money. We hate to have elite intellectuals tell us what is right and wrong; good or bad. In this case "elite" means educated (and therefore above us/putting on airs); so we reject the findings of scientists who claim evolution is real (just a theory!); climate change is happening (have you seen the weather outside?); or that vaccines are safe (I read something on the internet that scared me.) And don't get me started on "political elites"! Those Harvard/Yale boys have been the ruination of this country. Sorry, I'll stop channeling my father now. :rolleyes:
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wendy
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Post by wendy » Mon January 31st, 2011, 1:33 pm

It's also interesting that everyone seems to want to be a critic at some level (which may explain the success of such reality TV shows as "American Idol"). And there are now so many on-line venues for book reviewers that "general opinion" seems to hold more sway than the "professional" voters - would you agree?
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MLE (Emily Cotton)
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Post by MLE (Emily Cotton) » Mon January 31st, 2011, 3:37 pm

I'm married to a computer geek, so this isn't new to me. Jay saw the web's role as a kind of 'market force' for opinion decades ago. And what the article is talking about is exactly what we do on this forum: share our opinions on Historical Fiction. Because of this forum, I have heard about and enjoyed books that are long out of print. I can give my opinion on the books that the highbrow establishment lauds--and if I don't find them worthy, I confess the lauding will make me weigh harder in the other direction.

I learn a lot from the tastes of people who read our genre. At writing conferences and in books, you get a lot of information on how to write from crime novelists, sci-fi novelists, and nonfiction writers. All useful, but to some extent there is a disconnect; maybe what the SF writer has learned from his audience does not apply to the HF reader and would actually make my story LESS readable for my target. This forum is where I hear from the horses' mouths whether the hay is palatable.

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N. Gemini Sasson
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Post by N. Gemini Sasson » Tue February 1st, 2011, 3:13 pm

[quote=""wendy""]It's also interesting that everyone seems to want to be a critic at some level (which may explain the success of such reality TV shows as "American Idol"). And there are now so many on-line venues for book reviewers that "general opinion" seems to hold more sway than the "professional" voters - would you agree?[/quote]

I think you are right. People would rather make up their own minds than rely on a single authority. Or at the least, they'd probably rather rely on their peers for input than a critic.

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sweetpotatoboy
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Post by sweetpotatoboy » Tue February 1st, 2011, 4:57 pm

I think there's a need for both - on books at least.

When I want to get a feel for whether I'm likely to like a book, I think user reviews will be more helpful. Looking at somewhere like Amazon, provided it's a book with a sizeable review pool, will give a range of reactions, and I'm more likely to look at the negative ones to see if there's something about the book that would be likely to put me off it.

After I've read a book, if I want insightful analysis, I prefer to read professionally published reviews.

In my book groups, when preparing for the discussion, I normally collate as many professional reviews as I can find and a sample of user reviews. Typically, the professional reviews are more analytical and more suitable as a basis for discussion. Interestingly, there is frequently a stark divergence between the general tilt of the professional reviews and typical user reaction. It's clear that sometimes the professionals see something the average reader misses.

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