Critics needed now more than ever

Posted on: September 11, 2009

“I lose track of the number of invitations I receive to discuss ‘the death of the critic,’ ” writes theater critic Michael Billington in Wednesday’s (9/9) Guardian (London). “Only a fool would deny that criticism has been affected by the rise of new technology. But I’ve spent my life arguing that a review is simply a way of starting a debate. I also think it’s time to bury the myth that in the past critics were unaccountable, god-like figures. Criticism has always triggered meaty public debates. Years ago, I observed that we should have a UK Shaw festival, since he was our second-best dramatist after Shakespeare. The result was a blistering attack from John Osborne and a correspondence that raged, on our letters page, for weeks rather than days. What has changed is the technology: any opinion is now open to instant, rapid rebuttal online. … But it seems to me absurd to deduce from this that printed criticism is dead, dying or redundant. In any sphere of activity—be it politics, sport or fashion—there is a crying need for someone who brings to the subject a lifelong professional commitment: more than ever, I’d argue, in an age of spin and hype.”

Posted September 11, 2009