Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Crawling From The Wreckage Just To Think About My Critical Stance.

Got a story edited this morning. Got some writer's group business taken care of -- we've got a new candidate coming up. Now I'm writing a blog post for the first time in what seems like...

Holy shit, it has been a while, hasn't it? Gah. Blargh. Stupid winter break. Once the pressure to produce came off me I collapsed like a deflating balloon -- phthphthphthphth. Like it or not I need a structured environment to function properly. I'd probably thrive in the military or prison.


Anyway, one of the things that threw me off was my last piece of criticism. I re-read it a couple of days after it had been posted and I couldn't help but think that it was the work of a dick. Alternating between snideness and ass-kissing and pompous judgment... Oh, man, it left a bad taste in my mouth -- but at the end I felt like I'd delivered a defensible response to the work. I couldn't challenge what I'd said, just the way I'd said it.

Which is much the way it went back when I did a crit piece on Jurassic Fight Club. I lay out my opinion, then after I've posted it I want to moderate my tone.

I dunno. It makes me wonder what and why I'm doing these critical pieces.

Well, this is the best answer I've been able to come up with.

The real reason I'm doing this is in order to sharpen my critical faculties so I can bring them to bear on my own work. By systematically examining the strengths and weaknesses of works of art -- low or high, pop or fine -- that have had an effect on me I can trace their influences, see how they work, and in general learn from them.

Because of this my approach has its roots in the critical groups I've participated in. I like to start by examining strengths, then look for weak areas. It seems to me that very few works of art that have any scope of ambition are truly perfect and as a creator it's important for me to see how things could be improved.

And that's where my frustration with my critical essays comes in. Look, I think my take on Journal of a Sad Hermaphrodite was a reasonable one -- but I've just finished my first readable draft of a novel. DeLarrabeiti published fifteen novels. I've read widely but DeLarrabeiti demonstrates clearly in JSH that he's a genuine scholar of literature. Who the hell am I to criticize what he's done? I felt the same way when I got some feedback from an animator who worked on Jurassic Fight Club -- who the hell am I to denigrate other people's work?

And I think that's the key -- to avoid denigration. To avoid pomposity. I think that I have worthwhile things to say -- but I ain't an authority, even though I have a knack for sounding like one.

So I'm thinking that even though I prefer to keep my writing on the site as light and trouble-free as I can make it I may have to do rewrites on my critical pieces. They involve the work of other people; it doesn't seem unreasonable for me to show creators whose work I admire and seek to learn from that much respect.



Glendon Mellow said...

Don't lose all the snark though. It can make for a good read. A polarized opinion can be fun to play with for a while!

Your writing is fun to read, critical or not.

Eyeshare said...

Hi Oaf, Well Done. appreciated.

Sean Craven said...

Hey, Glendon, I suspect it would take brain surgery for me to lose all snark -- just ask the missus, who has to live with it.

Thanks, Eyeshare!