|Photo by Lis Ferla|
Noun. Late 16th century.
[Latin criticus from Greek kritikos, use as noun of adjective from krites judge.]
1 A person who pronounces judgement; especially a censurer. L16
2 A judge or writer on the qualities of literary or artistic works;
a professional reviewer of books, musical or dramatic performances, etc;
a person skilled in textual criticism. E17
GUEST POST BY SALLY PRUE
Eddie has offered me this chance to let off steam on the subject of critics. I suspect he sees it as a matter of public safety, fearing otherwise an explosion of Krakatoa-like proportions which might wipe out the entire population of the Northern Hemisphere.
That is plainly ludicrous (I doubt if I could manage anything much more violent than Vesuvius) but I'm afraid I do have to plead guity to having got a little impatient with critics from time to time. That instance where three reviews in a row referred to a character who didn’t actually appear in the book was a case in point; as, now I come to think about it, was the review that said one of my books was set off the coast of Australia when it wasn’t set off the coast of anywhere; and then there was that time when someone said that one book, Goldkeeper (‘I think Sally Prue should give up writing…’) was a new version of Peter Pan when a book MORE TOTALLY UNLIKE PETER PAN IS HARDLY TO BE FOUND ON THE FACE OF THE EARTH (NO TRAVELLING TO ANOTHER WORLD! NO IMMORTAL BOY!! NO FAIRIES!!! AND NOT A SINGLE FLIPPING EXAMPLE OF FLYING!!!!)…
…but anyway. Me, angry?
Not a bit. Not today, anyway. Not when a group of beautiful, intelligent child critics, together with a panel of adult critics from The Historical Association, has just given a Young Quills Award for best historical novel to my book Song Hunter (‘a great read despite its deeply complex subject matter…I found myself very wrapped up in the story…and I finished it with a lump in my throat’).
Hmmm…perhaps that’s going a bit far. I love the Young Quills critics. Apart from having exquisite taste and minds ready to embrace an unfamiliar setting, they, being children (for whom the book was written) and historians (who know about life 40,000 years ago) are in their own ways experts, aren’t they?
For, as the glorious PG Wodehouse points out in his golf story collection The Heart of a Goof, ‘a writer…is certainly entitled to be judged by his peers…and I think I am justified in asking of editors that they instruct critics of this book to append their handicaps in brackets at the end of their remarks. By this means…the sting of such critiques as ‘We laughed heartily while reading these stories – once – at a misprint’ will be sensibly diminished by the figure (36) at the bottom of the paragraph. While my elation will be all the greater should the words ‘A genuine masterpiece’ be followed by a simple (scr.)’.
So there we are.
A good critic knows what he’s talking about, has an open mind, and has read the book.
Ideally, (and surely I may dream, even though the world is such a sad imperfect place) a critic also shouldn’t be having an affair with, or be employed by, the artist or his publishers.
Or, come to think about it, their rivals, either.
|PG Wodehouse in 1904|
Thank you for a wonderfully ranty post, Sally, and a huge Lexicolatrical congratulations on winning the Young Quills Award for Historical Fiction with your latest book Song Hunter. And yes I have read it, yes it is a worthy winner, no it's not set off the coast of Australia, and yes I enjoyed it very much, as did (from the various reviews I've read) those curmudgeonly critics. Ed