Leonard Pierce, who will be contributing an essay on fascist art to Burning Ambulance #4, has written an erudite and impassioned defense of criticism that’s very much worth your time. A brief excerpt:
Nastiness in criticism, once an enjoyable deviation reserved for the worst artistic botches, is now commonplace; whether it’s to establish a critical persona, to engage in a sort of high-wire act (a laArmond White), or simply to reflect the author as a joy-hating shit, it’s become as commonplace and predictable a character as the prop comic. Criticism can and should sometimes be a painful thing, in the same way that pain calls attention to something amiss in the body. But it should never be about robbing people of the joy of art. The role of the critic is to examine art closely, to see what it’s made of whether wondrous, fraudulent, or nothing at all. Critics should never judge people by how they react to art. The only fool greater than someone who uses criticism as a tool to beat happiness out of others is someone who allows a critic to beat the happiness out of him. Revealing through deep reading what is hidden in art can be a transcendent human experience; calling someone a fool because a song makes her smile is the most wasteful activity imaginable.
Go read the whole thing.