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Critics

  • ... if you think it so easy to be a critic, so difficult to be a poet or a painter or film experimenter, may I suggest you try both? You may discover why there are so few critics, so many poets.

  • While in some quarters it is felt that the critic is just a necessary evil, most serious-minded, decent, talented theater people agree that the critic is an unnecessary evil.

  • The critic's hankering to be law-giver rather than servant of literature is irrepressible.

  • An intelligent man or woman willing to make a career of reviewing fiction is hard to come by ... And the temporaries do the work cheaply. Moreover, continuity may be got at the expense of intellectual arthritis; a reviewer who has been at his grisly task for half a lifetime may stiffen into prejudices of every sort, and become too anchylosed to do better than turn his back to a new wave when it rushes down on him.

  • The critic is beneath the maker, but is his needed friend. The critic is not a base caviler, but the younger brother of genius. Next to invention is the power of interpreting invention; next to beauty the power of appreciating beauty. And of making others appreciate it ...

  • The critic ... should be not merely a poet, not merely a philosopher, not merely an observer, but tempered of all three.

  • Curiously enough, it is often the people who refuse to assume any responsibility who are apt to be the sharpest critics of those who do.

  • A critic is a necessary evil, and criticism is an evil necessity.

  • ... critics and reviewers do not use / Their precious ammunition to abuse / A worthless work. That, left alone, they know / Will find its proper level; and they aim / Their batteries at rising works which claim / Too much of public notice.

  • Proust goes on. I love him as much as ever — but between ourselves he is not a very impressive critic. Rather like Valentine's intelligent poodle with grapes. She adores grapes, and can do everything with them except bite them.

  • ... the labors of the true critic are more essential to the author, even, than to the reader.

  • ... the critical power, though on a distinctly lower level than the creative, is of inestimable help in its development.

  • There is a secret and wholesome conviction in the heart of every man or woman who has written a book that it should be no easy matter for an intelligent reader to lay down that book unfinished. There is a pardonable impression among reviewers that half an hour in its company is sufficient.

  • One would think that an unsuccessful volume was like a degree in the school of reviewing. One unread work makes the judge bitter enough; but a second failure, and he is quite desperate in his damnation. I do believe one half of the injustice — the severity of 'the ungentle craft' originates in its own want of success: they cannot forgive the popularity which has passed them over ...

  • At present we avoid warfare — 'the good swords rust'; but we are not more peaceably disposed than our ancestors — look at the gauntlet to be run by a successful author. Ingenuity is racked for abuse, and language for its expression: everybody takes his success as personal affront. I think the late invention of steel pens quite characteristic of the age.

  • It is as hard to find a neutral critic as it is a neutral country in time of war. I suppose if a critic were neutral, he wouldn't trouble to write anything.

  • Too often do reviewers remind us of the mob of Astrologers, Chaldeans, and Soothsayers gathered before 'the writing on the wall,' and unable to read the characters or make known the interpretation.

    • Charlotte Brontë,
    • biographical note (1850) to Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights ()
  • It is a happy and easy way of filling a book that the present race of authors have arrived at — that of criticizing the works of some eminent poet, with monstrous extracts and short remarks. It is a species of cookery that I begin to grow tired of: they cut up their authors in chops, and by adding a little crumbled bread of their own, and tossing it up a little, they present it as a fresh dish: you are to dine upon the poet; the critic supplies the garnish, yet has the credit as well as the profit of the whole entertainment.

    • Hannah More,
    • 1775, in Mrs. Helen C. Knight, Hannah More or Life in Hall and Cottage ()
  • W.R. always said to me, 'Never read any bad reviews about yourself. Read only the good ones.' ... I'd rather read the bad ones than the good ones anyway, because at least there are more of them.

  • Agree with your accusers, loudly and clearly. They will shut up sooner.

  • Never defend yourself; agree with your critics, it takes the wind out of their sails.

  • There is a great supply of amateur undertakers in show business.

    • Ethel Waters,
    • in Ethel Waters with Charles Samuels, His Eye Is on the Sparrow ()
  • [On being a judge for the 1986 Booker Prize:] I got to the point where I couldn't read a laundry list without considering it for the Booker Prize.

  • Nobody can foresee what will please the critics. Every artistic activity is, and always will be, a poker game.

  • I don't suppose there's really any critic except posterity.

  • ... a critic ... is a mental eunuch; he can criticize, but he cannot create.

  • ... skip the cheap shots. Books, like foxes, are living creatures. Don't saddle up and race after one, baying and hallooing for sheer sport.

    • Marie Shear,
    • "Reviewing Book Reviewing," in James Waller, ed., Freelance Writers' Guide ()
  • ... he had made the transition from 'promising' to 'established' without anything in between, like most middle-aged critics of prominence.

  • A critic is a person who rationalizes his likes and dislikes in such impressive language that the layman thinks he is reasoning instead of rationalizing.

  • Poets are lovers. Critics are / mean, solitary masturbators.

  • To be a critic, you have to have maybe three percent education, five percent intelligence, two percent style, and ninety percent gall and egomania in equal parts.

    • Judith Crist,
    • in John Robert Colombo, Popcorn in Paradise ()
  • We also serve who only sit and read.

    • Judith Crist,
    • "The Best Book I Never Wrote," in Dilys Winn, Murder Ink ()
  • Don't get me started on critics.

    • Beverly Sills,
    • in Beverly Sills and Lawrence Linderman, Beverly ()
  • ... artists often lie behind on the field long after the art combine, the broad-bladed harvester of informed criticism, has mowed, bailed, and stored the crop.

  • ... critics, those pigeons on the monument, we have with us always.

  • My biggest critics have never read me.

  • Reviewers should know that bad books make good reviews, exactly as 'de mauvais vin on fait de bon vinaigre.' Without the necessary supply, adieu the opportunity for being witty in print, and of showing forth your own superiority, and enlivening the town at the small expense of an author's feelings.

  • A critic is someone who never actully goes to the battle, yet who afterwards comes out shooting the wounded.

    • Tyne Daly,
    • in Howard G. Hendricks and Bob Phillips, Values, Virtues ()
  • They never raised a statue to a critic.

  • ... the most annoying of all public performers is the personal satirist. Though he may be considered by some few, as a useful member of society; yet he is only ranked with the hangman, whom we tolerate because he executes the judgment we abhor to do ourselves; and avoid, with a natural detestation of his office: The pen of the one and the cord of the other are inseparable in our minds.

    • Jane Porter,
    • in Philip Sidney and Jane Porter, Aphorisms of Sir Philip Sidney, With Remarks by Miss Porter ()
  • You know reviewers, they are the wind in their own sails.

  • There is blood in Mr. Ervine's 'Carson'; he knows nothing about Sir Edward Carson, of course, but his teeth are firmly fixed in the calf of someone's leg, all the time, and he draws blood without a doubt.

  • [To Stoyan Pribicevic on his review of Black Lamb and Grey Falcon in the Nation:] The trouble about you, my lad, is that you are beautiful but dumb. Your review shows that you did not understand a page of my book.

    • Rebecca West,
    • 1945, in Bonnie Kime Scott, ed., Selected Letters of Rebecca West ()
  • ... where is the 'punch' in sweetness and light?

  • If you're thinking of becoming a critic, why not make other plans?