The days of the all-powerful critic are over. But that figure — high priest or petty dictator, destroying and consecrating reputations with the stroke of a pen — was always a bit of a myth, an allegorical monster conjured up by timid artists and their insecure admirers. Criticism has always been a fundamentally democratic undertaking. It is an endless conversation, rather than a series of pronouncements. It is the debate that begins when you walk out of the theater or the museum, either with your friends or in the private chat room of your own head. It’s not me telling you what to think; it’s you and me talking. That was true before the Internet, but the rise of social media has had the thrilling, confusing effect of making the conversation literal.I always tell people who read a book and feel differently about it than I did when I reviewed it that they are right. I write about my reading experience. Others may feel the same as I did, but not everyone will. Vive la différence. If you liked the book, the book was right for you.
Dave also sends along this: A. O. Scott considers the state of criticism—including his own.