a novel by JOHN GRABOWSKI

Criticism

This cartoon made me laugh. It was accompanied by an article recommending lots of TLC for the fragile writer, whose ego, I suppose, is made of candy glass. Fear not: mine is stainless steel, with many dents and dings. And I think a spring may have popped a while back.

Sure I love  compliments. Some people say the reason they engage in creative endeavors of any sort — music, acting, stand-up comedy — is to hear the applause, have praise heaped upon them. Understandable. But I have to wonder how much value compliments have if they’re automatic, just as I wonder if it’s fair to say criticism is sometimes invalid.

Nothing is worse to me than insincere flattery. “Oh, I loved it!” and you know they’re full of baloney. So I honestly can’t say I only want to hear the cheers. But at the same time, if I reject a critique, it doesn’t have to mean I’m pig-headed, immune to others’ opinions. Others’ opinions, however, could just be wrong. Or, to put it another way, you may not dislike something for the right reasons.

Everything is flawed. Interestingly, that includes criticism. And flawed criticism is in the end, while inevitable, not very useful. That doesn’t mean the writer must be showered in praise. And I’m not being a phony when I say my writng’s full of flaws. But often I find criticisms reveal more about the critic than the critiqued. Stanley Kubrick once said he never learned anything about what was wrong with his films by reading critics. And if you know Stanley, you know that guy thought there was plenty wrong with his films. Neurotic is just the beginning…

What do I think my strongest point as a writer is? That I eschew cliches and tell the truth, rethinking every established situation. Why do I think my biggest weakness is? That I don’t eschew cliches and tell the truth, rethinking every established situation. Or, as some author — and I forget who now — once said, I love every one of my novels as passionately as I hate it. Or was it the other way?

I suppose all of this is just a way of saying, when Wesley Shaw comes out, you don’t have to like it. You don’t have to tell me you like it. My feelings won’t be hurt. But please, do read it closely.

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One response

  1. mark

    This really resonated with me. I have nothing against well-formulated criticism–we can learn from it. But everyone in this internet age is a critic, and most of them don’t stop long enough to read and learn and think before they put fingers to keyboard. Bravo.

    Like

    July 3, 2011 at 10:01 am

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