In this Telegraph article, Tom Payne tussles with the value of a critic’s voice given the increase in access to direct reader opinion. He’s cranky about it and the comments call him out with some interesting counterpoints.
It’s a question that is running a course through every artistic discipline of this age. How do we maintain the value of considered practice when the corn rifles of amateurs crack and pop with increasing speed and volume?
“My kid can do that,” used to be the common critique of an abstract painting. “Yes, but she didn’t.” was the artist’s easy retort. It’s a bit more complicated now that the child has.
Payne should find inspiration in the static of the internet, though. More people writing for themselves, engaging with books and each other, means more work for the critic. There is increasing need for a sharp-minded take.
I suspect Payne’s unspoken concern is about getting paid, and in that dilemma he’s accompanied by every other working intellect. He either has to defend his privileged place with uncommonly good work, or better yet, reinvent the marketplace for his ideas. In either case, he shouldn’t see the chatter as competition.