Better Living Through Criticism Book Summary - Better Living Through Criticism Book explained in key points
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Better Living Through Criticism summary

A.O. Scott

How to Think About Art, Pleasure, Beauty and Truth

3.5 (20 ratings)
16 mins

Brief summary

Better Living Through Criticism by A.O. Scott is an enlightening read that explores the role of criticism in art and how it shapes cultural discourse. It pushes us to think critically and appreciate the value of diverse perspectives.

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    Better Living Through Criticism
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    Critics must react to art in the moment, without fear of backlash.

    We’re living in a fast-changing culture. From music to fashion, an underground hit can become a worldwide trending topic at breakneck pace. Criticism is much the same way – and that’s how it should be.

    While artworks themselves last for a long time, with our attitudes toward them changing over years and decades, criticism is fixed in a single moment. Take rock music, for instance. Though the genre was initially rejected by revered music critics, today rock’n’roll is recognized as a pivotal moment in musical history. The first negative critiques of rock music, on the other hand, became irrelevant.

    Often, when artists create work that breaks with the status quo and shocks society, criticism of this work changes over time alongside our understanding of it. Nevertheless, it’s the critic’s job to tackle the problem of examining art in the context of current conditions – even though their opinions and predictions could be contradicted or proven wrong by future cultural shifts.

    This is no small task, especially considering the sheer amount and range of works that require the intellectual scrutiny of the critic. Today’s critics are no longer just concerned with fine arts enjoyed by the elite. Traditionally “low-brow” forms of art also provide them with a wealth of interesting material to deconstruct. Even superhero movies tell us a lot about cultural attitudes today and are worth examining.

    However, our culture is also one that doesn’t respond well to criticism. Part of the critic’s task is to provoke thought, which often means articulating unpopular or controversial opinions. Backlash is to be expected.

    Even the author of this book sparked a heated online conflict over his biting review of The Avengers: Age of Ultron. On Twitter, the film’s star, actor Samuel L. Jackson, demanded that Scott find a new job, and thousands of fans were spurred on to attack Scott. But he wasn’t too concerned. The incident gave him notoriety as a critic and ensured that his job would never be in jeopardy.

    Of course, being a critic isn’t all about playing devil’s advocate. In the following blinks, we’ll learn about what makes criticism valuable. But first, let’s take a closer look at the intimate relationship between art and criticism.

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    What is Better Living Through Criticism about?

    Better Living Through Criticism (2016) explores the role of the critic. From the historical significance of criticism to the future of the digital critic, these blinks are an engaging introduction into an indispensable aspect of art and culture.

    Better Living Through Criticism Review

    Better Living Through Criticism (2016) by A.O. Scott is a thought-provoking exploration of the purpose and importance of criticism in our lives. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • It offers a refreshing perspective on the role of criticism, emphasizing its value in shaping our understanding of art, culture, and society.
    • Scott's intellectual curiosity and deep knowledge shine through, as he engages with a wide range of topics and art forms, making the book informative and enriching.
    • The book's engaging and accessible tone keeps readers hooked, as Scott navigates complex ideas with ease and injects humor and wit into his analysis.

    Who should read Better Living Through Criticism?

    • Students of visual art, literature or cultural studies
    • Readers curious about the influence of criticism on creative culture
    • Budding art writers seeking a big picture perspective on their discipline

    About the Author

    A.O. Scott became a film critic for the New York Times in 2000 and was named Chief Film Critic in 2004. In addition, Scott is a distinguished professor of Film Criticism at Wesleyan University and writes for the New York Times Magazine and Book Review.

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    Better Living Through Criticism FAQs 

    What is the main message of Better Living Through Criticism?

    The main message of Better Living Through Criticism is the importance and value of criticism in our lives.

    How long does it take to read Better Living Through Criticism?

    The reading time for Better Living Through Criticism varies but the Blinkist summary can be read in a few minutes.

    Is Better Living Through Criticism a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Better Living Through Criticism is a thought-provoking book that encourages us to see the world and ourselves through the lens of criticism. It is definitely worth reading.

    Who is the author of Better Living Through Criticism?

    The author of Better Living Through Criticism is A.O. Scott.

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