Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Creative Cultural Criticism - by Bill Roorbach (Literary Entry)

This is a required reading assignment for a university literary class. As this work is found in a few places elsewhere online, I have decided to set a precedent for many college students everywhere who so desperately look for a re-posted work online to copy-&-paste to a text-to-speech program. By having it read back to them, they spend a fraction of the effort otherwise spent manually reading this passage. Students seek paths of least resistance. I am constructing one of them.

In calling this section "Creative Cultural Criticism" --by willfully throwing in the word creative--I risk being lit on fire and thrown off a cliff by my colleagues who are critics, and whose work is certainly creative, even if it doesn't particularly aspire to art. Nothing is more important to art than criticism, but nothing is more annoying to artists, or then again as gratifying, depending on how clearly the critic sees: the critic affects the artist either way. But listen: nothing is less important to the general culture than cultural criticism, since we all grind on regardless. The art critic may take herself seriously indeed, but the cultural critic had best not.

Creative cultural criticism differs from more traditional criticism in that it puts the critic in the midst of her subject. The critic's fallible life and tastes are as open to dissection as the subject she picks. And the subjects aren't standard. Writers in this broad category have written about the best-seller lists rather than books, the face in art as opposed to artwork, the meanings of illness itself rather than artwork about illness.

And because of the diffuse nature of the beast, the reader interested in reading more creative cultural criticism will have to do her own legwork: The New Yorker, Harper's, The Atlantic Monthly, these are perhaps the most reliable sources for such writing (regular, slightly skeptical reading in all three periodicals is a must for any student of creative nonfiction in any case). The New York Review of Books is often home to creative critics as well. Good literary magazines like The Georgia Review all offer examples of the form in every issue. And writers of creative cultural criticism tend to mention other writers extensively-- once one gets going, the path won't end.

1 comment:

  1. Yes.

    The sceptical reading of big magazines, especially.

    Google Books is good for this. How accessible through text-to-speech, though?

    It has magazines like Jet and Mother Jones and also Life.

    Magazines I read sometimes include Granta and the Spectator, as well as Prospect and Sp!ked.