Critical cliches, etc.
Posted 28 July 2001 - 03:40 AM
I personally have a problem with "compelling." It seems to be one of those words people fall back on when they liked something but can't think of anything more specific. Who was compelled? and compelled to what? Never mind. Anyway, here's the link:
Posted 28 July 2001 - 05:25 PM
Thank you for posting this, dirac. I missed it.
All of his truisms are true!!!
I especially liked the point that, since we don't make art ourselves any more -- once upon a time, the educated person was expected to be an amateur artist, writing sonnets and sonatas -- we have become distanced from it and can't find good ways to describe art. And, as the author put it: "As we become a society of art consumers, with little real experience with the technical issues of making art, we have less and less of substance to say about it. And our cliches both reflect and deny that truth."
To the larger point about using cliches -- all critics do it. When you're writing for a newspaper it's almost unavoidable. It's not possible to say anything specific and meaningful about a work of art in 180 words. If one does become very specific and "literary," then what one writes will be meaningless to 95% of the people reading you. So we all say "wonderful," "beautiful," etc. We all know what "wonderful" and "beautiful" mean, but we all have a different image -- Zakharova, Julie Kent, Wendy Whelan, Margot Fonteyn -- all wonderful and beautiful to someone. All mutually exclusive.
I used to joke about writsing a book called "Use the Right Cliche, a Thesaurus for the Critically Challenged" which I thought would be a best seller among critics. When I started writing, I had to do a lot of galas -- there's an impossibility for you. Twenty couples dancing, mostly, virtuoso and lyrical pas de deux. How to describe them? What to say? Fans want to know how "their" dancer did, and who was there and did what. I once -- honest -- made a list of adjectives up in advance (I had to call in the review within a half-hour after the curtain went down). And I really truly matched "melting" with Kirkland and Dowell in the Snow pas de deux from "The Nutcracker." Luckily, I caught it. Someone else melted, someone else was charming, someone else danced cleanly -- quite different from dancing clearly -- and nearly everyone was wonderful.
But describing dancers as collections of bones and muscles -- this one has a long metatarsal, this one strong thighs -- doesn't help much either.
Posted 29 July 2001 - 11:13 AM
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