Criticizing After Dinner

What is criticism? Karl Marx had a pretty good idea. On a perfect day in a perfect world, he wrote, a happy citizen might “hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening” and, finally and best of all, “criticize after dinner,” perhaps with a bottle of wine on the table.

Marx understood that criticism doesn’t mean delivering petty, ill-tempered Simon Cowell-like put-downs. It doesn’t necessarily mean heaping scorn. It means making fine distinctions. It means talking about ideas, aesthetics and morality as if these things matter (and they do). It’s at base an act of love. Our critical faculties are what make us human.

Dwight Garner, “A Critic’s Case for Critics Who Are Actually Critical,” New York Times

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