Return of the Critic

"Get this!" said the editor in chief. He said it in that blaring voice that means I have to get up from my desk and venture down the corridor. When I peek around the corner, he's waving one of the "webmachine" [?!] pages I print out for him before he rolls in at around ten thirty. "This is a proper critic!" He lays the page our little console table, one of the many thoughtful touches which make the Pilum offices so pleasant a workplace. "What is this? 1976?" Chief reward the wrinkled page, twice tapping it, before he trundles off after the tea cart. 

First-order criticism is of course constructive. Even when applying a negative opinion. We need more than first-order criticism now. We need restorative criticism, criticism that encourages a reader to spend more than forty-five minutes a throw with a work. We need big-hearted engagement that isn't lazy and petty takes.

This need is all the more acute given the ongoing proliferation of publication. Worse, in an environment characterized by aggressive promotion of agenda and wilful bowdlerization--intoxication is more apt--critics can't git shook. Nothing should be out of their wheelhouse--nothing that they actually bother to read, that is! Up is still up. And saying so is a courageous act, but still insufficient. Saying so with generosity and knowledge is almost unknown. One would hope that Palacio will soon find himself beyond his usual precincts, in a place where he might indulge himself more deeply. (Perhaps IM1776 will one day found a review of books?) One senses heights of cleverness yet to be scaled. 

First, much has been made of Amazon’s decision to present Galadriel as a committed warrior, a leader of men in battle. Defenders of the decision invariably proffer Éowyn as a sort of precedent. But too often they conflate Jackson’s Éowyn with Tolkien’s. Jackson’s Éowyn is a noblewoman who takes up arms in reaction to her lack of agency amid the war threatening to topple the House of Eorl. Tolkien’s Éowyn does the same, but Tolkien makes it very clear that she was wrong to do so. In Jackson’s version, Éowyn disproves the doubters by heroically slaying the Witch King of Angmar. In Tolkien’s version, Éowyn’s spirit, while noble, leads her to act wrongly in response to her despair. By divine grace the day is redeemed nonetheless, but Eowyn herself sees the folly in her actions and repudiates them.

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