|Two whom the critical establishment know to be masters...|
Everyone’s a critic, they do say, and they’re right. But obviously some people criticise better than others and as cultural consumers we’re better off when they do – it makes a valuable guide as to how we should spend our leisure time. Reviewing a piece of art, though, is also a little art of its own, and ought to be a mutual literary pleasure into the bargain. For those reasons I’m going to be teaching a 10-week course on Writing Reviews at Covent Garden’s City Literary Institute starting next week, Thursday January 14, and finishing Thursday March 17.
Each week we’ll be exploring specific issues about the skills and styles and principles that make for good (and bad) reviewing, looking at some masterly practitioners of the reviewer’s art (plus a few who do it much less well), and class members will share their own freshly written reviews for group discussion.
We’ll study work across the spectrum of art forms – high and low and somewhere in-between; and examine all sorts of diverse and recognised ways of covering the arts, from the 1000-word appreciation to the capsule column review, the top-ten highlights list to the ‘hatchet job’.
Content will be shaped in part to the interests of the group, but I have a notion that over 10 weeks we will peruse for interest the celebrated movie writings of Pauline Kael, the TV columns of Clive James, the theatre reviews of Ken Tynan, the art criticism of Robert Hughes, the thoughts on music of Alex Ross and Greil Marcus, the book reviews of Christopher Hitchens and the expansive thoughts on culture of Susan Sontag and of Stanley Crouch.
Whether you’re a novice in the reviewing field or someone who’s tried it out and wishes to hone their craft further, I do believe you’ll find something useful here. Some fun, too.