Review of: Cynthia Ozick: Critics, Monsters, Fanatics, and Other Lit...: I am the Problem::
Cynthia Ozick has written a collection of essays centered on criticism. Criticizing criticism is a thankless job. One gets oneself into all sorts of quagmire. She posits 'nothing is worth doing unless it has never been done before...', as one mode, then the other as '...the sweet value of ripeness.'
Her dilemma is at least as nearly as true as those in other of areas humanity, such as engineering, where the turntable or the horse carriage outperformed nascent innovations for considerable periods; they were perfected upon the occasions of their doom. But few will quit writing novels so long as they can be sold. Others will persist anyway. Few make money, even fewer are destined prized as literature and treasures of culture.
Every step Ms. Ozick takes is fraught with complexity. If the realist or realistic or tragic realist form is or may be about to be dead because it has been done, then all pressures, artistic, commercial and academic are exerted to produce the new, the 'experimental', to use an empty adjective.
Yet Ms. Ozick (whom I have been reading for three decades) draws herself into such forlorn defenses of her not quite-dead-yet craft by writing that Mozart and jazz manage to coexist in our world. There is a sense, good or bad, that both of these art forms are now museum pieces, genius and beautiful, but none-the-less...no longer developing. Jazz is in another world now, never to go back in time to Parker and Armstrong, just as we no longer compose minuets.
Experimentalism, short of the horrible isms, is proper to science, not to humanities. Oh, grumble not, as any author or artist has the potential to experiment. Ms. Ozick lays the onus on the absence of serious critics. Publishers, yes, mostly are running businesses (with a sacred few in a number of spaces, such as Wiley for science or Faber, or Scholastic, etc.), hoping to find their own Black Swan, their asymmetrical, long tailed, Super Lotto. It does happen.
But the critic? The two helpless Waiting for Godot tramps Trump (sic) their exchanges of insults with the nuclear 'Critic'.
In a curious twist, she says it is not the novel that is endangered, (wait for the twist); the real missing piece of infrastructure is the true critic, as opposed to the reviewers. Reviewers are a problem.
Ms. Ozick says that Amazon is the instigator, the enabler of fiends like me, formerly seen in movies like Fritz Lang's 'M'.
Hence, my pathetic confessions:
I am a part of the problem. Amazon is my enabler, my pusher. Ms. Ozick suggests that the rise of the likes of me is not innocent (imagine my glee or shame as suits you).
I am the poster child for a new low in public responsibility. I am unlettered. I am an exhibitionist. Anyone who reads my reviews can see these attributes. Moreover, I am a thug, a guttersnipe. I roam these pages 'uncontested and unedited', like the cheap film noir character in rumpled raincoat smoking filterless cigarettes.
That raincoat crack is not gratuitous because she says this whole Amazoo process is shoddy. Of course, shoddy originally was that cheap fabric that quickly wore out on the Civil War soldiers, from profiteers.
Ms. Ozick goes on:
Amazon's unspoken credo is that anyone or everyone is well suited to make literary judgements...
She is looking straight at me. I, a long standing, card carrying member of the great unwashed here wandered into her cross-hairs. I am the one who cooks the cauldron of hype to mislead you to buy any new shoe in my stew. I am lurking in the shadows to plaster one star reviews to hobble the next Chaucer or Bellow or...Ozick. She thinks people will believe me, no matter the hundreds of negative votes I got when I did review books regularly.
The lumpenproletariat look to this pied piper of megalomania.
A Palooka like me ain't not well read enough to appreciate tragic realism or psychological complexity. This handicap is precisely why Big Brother Bezos found me and let me loose in his zoo. Me, an unqualified and naive baboon with a keyboard.
You see, I look only for pablum and titillation. I throw-up all over anything stinking of literature.
Therefore, gentle reader, I implore you -- I beg you to shout me down as the crazy wretch I am. Stop me before I review again!
There is a button down there. You know what to do. -- I will take that blindfold and cigarette now.