May 23, 2012

Three Words to Eliminate from Our Critical Vocabulary

Critics and readers fall into movements just as artists do. We rely on expressions that feel clever and current when we're expressing them but are really cliches in the making and lazy in the extreme. Here are three:

1. Just. As expressed by Hugh Laurie, defending the repetitive format of House (and the blues and opera and literature and all art), "If you preface your critique with 'just,' you can diminish and undermine the most complex structures."

2. Solipsistic. J. T. Bushnell writes in the latest issue of Poets & Writers that this is the go-to adjective of dislike for most critics of fiction. It's funny; find a website that features reviews of novels and search on it. You'll find a results list that looks like this:  ". . .  a solipsistic tendency . . ."  ". . . falls into the solipsistic error . . ."  ". . .  solipsistic in the extreme . . ."

3. Whiny. Used to dismiss all memoirs and most narrative art by/about women who are not poor. 

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