Better Living Through Criticism: How to Think About Art, Pleasure, Beauty, and Truth

Better Living Through Criticism: How to Think About Art, Pleasure, Beauty, and Truth

by A. O. Scott


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The New York Times film critic shows why we need criticism now more than ever

Few could explain, let alone seek out, a career in criticism. Yet what A.O. Scott shows in Better Living Through Criticism is that we are, in fact, all critics: because critical thinking informs almost every aspect of artistic creation, of civil action, of interpersonal life. With penetrating insight and warm humor, Scott shows that while individual critics—himself included—can make mistakes and find flaws where they shouldn't, criticism as a discipline is one of the noblest, most creative, and urgent activities of modern existence.

Using his own film criticism as a starting point—everything from his infamous dismissal of the international blockbuster The Avengers to his intense affection for Pixar's animated Ratatouille—Scott expands outward, easily guiding readers through the complexities of Rilke and Shelley, the origins of Chuck Berry and the Rolling Stones, the power of Marina Abramovich and 'Ode on a Grecian Urn.' Drawing on the long tradition of criticism from Aristotle to Susan Sontag, Scott shows that real criticism was and always will be the breath of fresh air that allows true creativity to thrive. "The time for criticism is always now," Scott explains, "because the imperative to think clearly, to insist on the necessary balance of reason and passion, never goes away."

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780143109976
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 02/07/2017
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 590,206
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 7.70(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

A. O. Scott joined The New York Times as a film critic in January 2000. Previously, Mr. Scott was a Sunday book reviewer for Newsday and a frequent contributor to Slate, The New York Review of Books, and many other publications. He has served on the editorial staffs of Lingua Franca and The New York Review of Books. In addition to his film-reviewing duties, Mr. Scott often writes for the Times Magazine and the Book Review. He lives with his family in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Table of Contents

Introduction: What Is Criticism? (A Preliminary Dialogue) 1

Chapter 1 The Critic as Artist and Vice Versa 13

Chapter 2 The Eye of the Beholder 43

Self-criticism (A Further Dialogue) 81

Chapter 3 Lost in the Museum 91

Chapter 4 The Trouble with Critics 121

Practical Criticism (Another Dialogue) 153

Chapter 5 How to Be Wrong 167

Chapter 6 The Critical Condition 213

The End of Criticism (A Final Dialogue) 253

Afterword: A Reply to My Critics (One More Dialogue) 269

Acknowledgments 283

Index 285

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