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The Starving Artist's Survival Guide
By Marianne Taylor
Simon Spotlight EntertainmentCopyright © 2005 Marianne Taylor
All right reserved.
Just as music is often classified into rock, jazz, hip-hop, and so on, critics can also be categorized by their particular style and tone.
This critic is primarily a reviewer of poetry and literary fiction. Having spent way too much time in the ivory tower, "Doc" writes reviews filled with so many Latinate words that even after a dictionary translation, you still have no idea what it means. The good news is that you can pick out any of his phrases at random ("this work is part of the hermeneutic devaluing of the postmodern dictum") and use them as back cover blurbs -- you'll sound smart and no one else can define "hermeneutic."
Bribe with: Oxford English Dictionary
Hero: Thomas Pynchon
Found trolling after rock bands, often mistaken for groupie. Tendency to play air drums. Whatever the artist does, Gonzo is right there snorting, sniffing, and screwing along. Is frequently overheard saying to editor, "But dude, I just wanted the band to open up to me." Gonzo's dangerous, because loyalty to band buddies is usurped by need to pay for broken hotel television, rehab, strip club tab.
Bribe with: bail money
Favorite possession: Lou Reed's bar towel
Warm Fuzzy Critic
This is everyone's favorite critic. Loving and generous as your kindergarten teacher, Fuzzy refuses on principle to review art that doesn't appeal. Why criticize when you can praise? Why tear down when so many need building up? If you hear you're getting a review from Fuzzy, rejoice -- it's sure to be glowing.
Bribe with: No need...although jelly beans are always appreciated.
Hobby: Collecting Smurfs
This critic originally hails from across "the pond" and as such has never subscribed to the American habit of super-sizing. Brit crit believes that the adjective "fine" should be understood to mean exactly what it does, a lesson Brit crit learned way back when at Eton boarding school. When Brit crit got an A, the don said that the work was "fine." The don did not say it had been "the most groundbreakingly earth-shatteringly monumental event to rock modern civilization and a feel-good hit all wrapped up into one sleek and sexy package."
Bribe with: Fortnum & Mason Earl Grey tea (loose, not in bags)
Secret crush: the Queen Mum
The Big Head Critic
These critics are so well-known they have to go to performances incognito. Whatever Big Head says is law. If Big Head loves you, you're set for life. If Big Head hates you, you're sunk for at least five years.
Bribe with: wigs and money
Vacations at: Dan Aykroyd's house on Nantucket
Sometimes an artist decides to take up the poisoned pen by becoming a critic as well. The artist-critic can be the most vicious critic of all. In much the way that guppies will devour each other in a fish tank, one artist will sometimes attack another out of an instinctual fear that there's simply not enough room for everyone. For example, Evelyn Waugh wrote of Stephen Spender: "To see him fumbling with our rich and delicate language, is to experience all the horror of seeing a Sevres vase in the hands of a chimpanzee." Equally biting was Truman Capote's assessment of Jack Kerouac's On the Road: "That's not writing, that's typing."
Bribe with: Promise that when it's your turn to review their work, you'll be nice
Favorite movie: Silence of the Lambs
This critic loves rating systems. Fingers up or fingers down. The circles are empty, a quarter-full, half-full, three-quarters full, or, whoa boy, all the way full! Gimmick Critic reviews a lot of art and wants to make sure that there's variety in the ratings. Even if everything was fantastic, too many full circles on a page looks like a Pac-Man run amok, and so Gimmick will inexplicably give a half-circle to something deserving a full. Too many empty circles -- also not good, so Gimmick will be forced to give bad art a full circle. The trick, therefore, is to make sure your art gets reviewed on a day when there's already a disproportionate number of less-than-fulls.
Bribe with: Phases of the moon poster
Dreams of: Roger Ebert naked and covered in whipped cream
This critic may or may not do opera reviews -- the name comes from the critic's screeching sensibilities. A piece of art is either so delicious it causes drooling puddles of delight, or else it is pointless flotsam drifting on a river of sewage waste. "Figaro" has no sense of objectivity and undergoes massive emotional swings. When reviewing a work, Figaro has been known to openly weep, burst into hiccuping guffaws, blanch with horror, then fall sound asleep.
Bribe with: monogrammed hankies
Favorite descriptors: "heartbreaking," "dazzling," "putrid"
Text copyright 2005 by Marianne Taylor and Laurie Lindop
Illustrations copyright 2005 by Paul Weil
Excerpted from The Starving Artist's Survival Guide by Marianne Taylor Copyright © 2005 by Marianne Taylor. Excerpted by permission.
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