The Critique is the Critique–and it’s a “Work” Too!

(Soundtrack: Rage Against the Machine The Battle of Los Angeles)

Sean Collins and Steven Berg offer up some more thoughts (and links!) re: “the work is the work”. The key paragraph, it seems to me, is this one (written by Mr. Collins):

But sometimes what you want a given work of art to be is what it probably should have been. Sometimes authors make the wrong choices in terms of what to show or how to show it. The window they place over the events of the fictional life of a given character is too narrow, too broad, too opaque, too transparent, too open, too shut, or facing the wrong direction entirely. The author can say “No, no, it’s exactly the way I wanted it–it’s your problem if you don’t like the view,” but that doesn’t make it so.

But waitaminnit here! I agree with Sean’s hypothetical author! Or let’s just say that I would if I believed in authors! Ya see, as far as I’m concerned, it’s the text that says: “No, no, it’s exactly the way I wanted it–it’s your problem if you don’t like the view.” Whatever’s there is there. The writing’s on the wall. The writing is a wall–and a critique is interpretive grafitti! When I typed up “Sergeant Dork” the other day, I created an amalgam of Demo #7 and my perspective on the book. My intention was to build upon a work that interested me. I made no qualitative judgments, because, well, I don’t believe anyone is really qualified to do that. I took it for granted that what I had in front of me was the only Demo #7 that will ever exist–and, instead of arguing about which way the window should have faced, I attempted to inscribe my reading experience into the landscape it revealed. The success or failure of that endeavor should not be measured by whether anyone thinks I was “right”, but by whether my piece kept the momentum going (as Demo itself has built upon the momentum of whatever it is that Brian and Becky are using as fuel!) At any rate, you may be sure that that’s what I hoped to accomplish!

By the way, if anyone out there feels like bouncing their thoughts off some work of mine–I posted Chapter Two (“Not Exactly A Ghost Story”) of Longing For Catastrophe here (Chapter One–“Outside The Regence”–may be found here.) Of course, these are always subject to change…

Good Night Friends!



  1. It seems to me we’ve laid out two ways of saying similar things: “I didn’t like the ‘social deprogramming’ and femme fatalism” vs. “The story would have been better off without the ‘social deprogramming’ and femme fatalism.” Well, those are similar statements, but of course how you say something is at least as important as what you’re saying, and those sentences point in two very different directions. I do think “How the story should have been” (which is really to say “This is what I would do with the same material”) is a valid method of critique, though. E.g., Vanilla Sky, the remake of Abre los ojos.

  2. I left out a sentence before that last “e.g.”: The most obvious way to do that kind of critique is to write a new story.

  3. you’re right Steven–we are saying pretty much the same thing! And yeah, I agree, one of the best ways to critique a story is to write another story…


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