March 7th, 2011 / 4:19 pm

Charles Baxter on “Owl Criticism”: “To say that something is ‘boring’ is not a statement about a book, although the speaker may think that it is; it’s a statement about the reader’s poverty of equipment.” (That’s the pithiest line. Many less pithy, more fiercely argued and substantial lines are included in the essay, as well.)


  1. Frank Tas

      If I review this review of reviews, then who will review my review of this review of reviews?

  2. Laura van den Berg

      I thought this essay was great.

  3. deadgod

      If someone unpacked a book’s verbal economies and thematic gestures, and in so doing found them labored, tedious, and cliched, and all fruitlessly so, and concluded that the book was “boring”, would that person be a less owlish owl?

  4. deadgod

      That essay had a Reviewer in it, and the essayist doesn’t like Reviewers.

  5. Caleb Powell

      Good essay and food for thought. Baxter’s comment on books that the “jury has decided on” makes sense. Why knock ’em? I have been bored by some classics, and find the criticism and hoopla far more interesting than the dry texts, yet I would not bother mounting arguments against them. That being said, well written negative criticism is much harder to write…and sets the critic up to be exposed if the review is not sharp.

  6. Frank Tas

      Quick help me dig myself out of this hole!

  7. deadgod

      For Athena’s sake, use your beak and talons and tunnel upward, wise and mighty Raptor!

  8. Frank Tas, the Raptor

      I can live with that moniker.

  9. NLY

      “Raptor, in hole, with Moniker.”

      I’d paint that.

      It would be an abstract painting, of course. It would have a concrete companion piece, too.

      “Raptor, in hole, with Monocle.”

  10. Frank Tas, the Raptor

      Paint it!

      Look how deep I’ve gotten!