I know this is not an art critic’s blog, but this article at The Guardian upset me enough to have to comment on it.
In it, Peter Conrad sets to more or less smash the books of former collaborators and friends Edward Said and Daniel Barenboim. What bothers me is not that he dislikes the books. After all, taste is well, subjective. It’s the personal vendetta-like tone that he employs throughout the whole article what bothers me. There isn’t an ounce of objective criticism in his piece:
“Beyond expressing pious hopes about Utopia, Barenboim has little progress to report. Anecdotes are tediously recycled; the title of his book should have been ‘Everything Is Repeated’. An insubstantial volume is filled out with a random sampling of interviews and journalistic articles, which supply inadvertent glimpses of the man behind the missionary. The conductor is more than an evangelist”.
and then this:
“Barenboim, who says that he reads Spinoza in his dressing room during intervals, worries about ‘musical ethics’ and fusses over ‘the moral responsibility of the ear’. I’m not sure that a sense organ can carry such a burden; we don’t ask our penises to possess a conscience”.
Now, I cannot believe a critic could be so daft as to ignore the power of metaphor, but he gets even more juvenile by attacking Said on account of bad orthography! If anything, shouldn’t Said’s editor be held accountable for that?!
And then he gives away the true reason behind the trashing:
At least he commits no orthographic error when he casually refers to ‘the egregious Peter Conrad’. I guess he intended to insult me, but I’m happy to bask in a cack-handed compliment, since the dictionary says that the adjective means prominent, distinguished or, at worst, outrageous. No argument backs up the animadversion, so who can tell? If I’m on Said’s shit list, the company I keep is melodious; he considers Verdi to be a bad composer, sniffs at Bartók, patronises Alfred Brendel as a ‘decent, earnest’ dullard and derides Pavarotti as ‘a grotesque’. Said’s sloppiness matters because he enjoys pretending to be holier and higher-browed than the rest of us.
So, it is personal after all, isn’t it Mr. Conrad?
Perhaps art critics should no longer wonder why their positions are disappearing. The should look no further than Conrad’s pieces to understand why people might not be interested in what they have to say.
On an unrelated note, I will also be (cross)posting every now and then at NewInnergy, my business partner’s blog. Unlike Conrad, I’ll try to keep it civil, on topic and objective.