Ol' Ez had a gazillion things to say about criticism, and often it was aimed at some sort of mass pedagogy for the "man" who still wants to learn; a "man" who has found himself alienated from the Bewildered Herd and would like some guidance from a no-nonsense tough-guy aesthete. Pound was happy to play the part. Here's some advice from Pound to one of these "men":
"All the 'critic' can do for him to is knock him out of his habitual associations, to 'show him the thing in a new light' or better, put it in some place he hadn't expected to find it." - from Machine Art & Other Writings: The Lost Thought of the Italian Years, p.83
It seems there are many cognate quotes like this from Pound in his voluminous oeuvre; I liked this one because it seems to capture the experimental Pound: a writer who tried to find structures and forms that worked on the mind of the Reader on more than a few levels. A critic can break habitual associations in the reader only with some sort of ju-ju that approaches a magickal operation, it seems to me. A simple way to unpack this: when Harold Bloom used the term "strong poetry" he meant someone (scientists and political revolutionaries included) who could use metaphors so well that they make the reader see the world in a new way. No mean feat; no small shakes, that.
Any criticism that accomplished this level must, it seems to me, attain to something like "literature" itself?
and he loved playing stoned. His book Really The Blues
was influential in many ways.
"Suppose you're the critical and analytical type, always ripping things to pieces, tearing the covers off and being disgusted by what you find under the sheet. Well, under the influence of muta you don't lose your surgical touch exactly, but you don't come up evil and grimy about it. You still see what you saw before but in a different, more tolerant way." - from Really The Blues, pagination lost in my notes because I was probably stoned?
No comment here; Mezz's observations about "muta" (cannabis) seem self-evident to me.
Woody Allen is a big fan of Mezz's book.
McLuhan on Burroughs
The New York intellectual Alfred Kazin had quasi-dismissed Burroughs's writings as a "private movie theatre." Here's McLuhan:
"It is amusing to read reviews of Burroughs that try to classify his books as nonbooks or as failed science fiction. It is a little like trying to criticize the sartorial and verbal manifestations of a man who is knocking on the door to explain that flames are leaping from the roof of our home." - originally from "Notes on Burroughs," The Nation, December 28, 1964; collected in William S. Burroughs At The Front: Critical Reception, 1959-1989
Let me just say that the current way I see McLoon's meaning here is that we ought to look first at the performativity of Burroughs's bits, the way he tries to accomplish whatever he's trying for (saving Western civ), and not so much the garish content of his visuals alone.
Professor Carlin: On Film Criticism
"I'm never critical or judgmental about whether or not a movie is any good. The way I look at it, if several hundred people got together every day for a year or so - a number of them willing to put on heavy makeup, wear clothes that weren't their own and pretend to be people other than themselves - and their whole purpose for doing this was to entertain me, then I'm not gonna start worrying about whether or not they did a good job. The effort alone was enough to make me happy." - from When Will Jesus Bring The Pork Chops?, p.106
the best artist who has ever tired to capture Wilson's vibe: he's
steeped in RAW's work and has a mesmerizing, psychedelic style
that fits RAW's work isomorphically. When I look at this
piece, I think of the Discordian admonition: "Don't just eat a
hamburger...eat THE HELL out of it!"
Two Writers: Very Different Takes on Criticism
First up, my favorite writer, Robert Anton Wilson, interviewed at his home overlooking the campus at Berkeley, possibly Spring of 1981, by Dr. Jeffrey M. Eliot:
Eliot: Are you affected by the critics? Do their opinions concern you?
RAW: As William Butler Yeats said, "Was there ever a dog that loved its fleas?" Critics have been very kind to me, personally. Of all the reviews of my published books, something like 90 percent have been highly favorable, so I have no personal grudge against critics. On the other hand, in an impersonal
way, I have a strong moral objection to critics. Whenever I see a critic tearing a writer or actor or any artist to shreds in print, I feel a sense of revulsion. I write a lot of criticism myself, but I only review things I like. I don't admire the desire to tear other people apart. I can think of two unfavorable reviews I've written in my whole life, and I regret them. One was about a book in which a woman gets raped and is said to enjoy it; the other was a review of a very dogmatic book on UFOs, in which the author described those who disagreed with him as neurotics. People who like to write witty, nasty
things about other people are not generous or charitable, to put it mildly. We should all try to give out as much good energy to other human beings as we possibly can. I honestly believe that every bit of bad energy we put out has adverse effects that go on forever. This is the Buddhist doctrine of karma. The
Buddhists believe that every bit of anger, resentment, hate and so on that goes out passes from one person to another, without stopping. The same is true of good energy: every bit of good energy one puts out makes someone else feel a little bit better. I think if people were really conscious of this
psychological fact, they would try to put out nothing but good energy, no matter what happened to them. They would certainly not be so casual about passing on bad energy. All the bad energy in the world builds up like a giant snowfall, until we have a huge war. Nowadays, it can mean total nuclear
Armageddon. This is traditional Buddhism, as I say, but I think it's materialistic common sense, too. One only needs to study human behavior to realize it. I regard those people who make a career out of being nasty as emotional plague carriers.
-from an interview in Literary Voices #1, p.54
Near the end of his life, RAW saw fit to re-publish snippets of various interviews he'd given over the years in his book Email To The Universe. The above was included in that 2005 book (albeit RAW edited it using E-Prime), see p.216. RAW wrote that his wife Arlen read the interview and she guessed he was stoned at the time. On p.216 of Email, which includes this bit on Buddhism and criticism, RAW included a footnote which reads: "Yeah, Arlen got it right: I must have toked a bunch o' weed before delivering myself of that sermon."
Aside from RAW's take on criticism here, his overall view on the subject was far more complex (he was not able to remain emotionally distant from unfriendly reviews), and someday I will try to flesh it all out a bit. Moving on...
Nonetheless: let us take Robert Anton Wilson(1981) as one view of critics. I would like to contrast this with Lawrence Grobel's interview with James Ellroy, who once described himself as the "demon dog" of literature.
Grobel asks Ellroy in 1998:
LG: Kirkus Reviews called you the comic-book Dos Passos of our time.
Ellroy: I never read Dos Passos. Kirkus can suck my dick. Fuck them up the ass with a faggot pit bull with an 18-inch dick and shoot a big load of syphilitic jism up Kirkus's ass.
-from Endangered Species: Writers Talk About Their Craft, Their Visions, Their Lives
Here's Ellroy on Brit TV from not long ago. He's always creeped me out in an entertaining way. If you ever get a chance to see him do a reading, even if you're not into his stuff, CANCEL everything else and see him read. Trust me on this. Also, as disparate from Robert Anton Wilson as I find Ellroy's bearing and attitude towards...life, note they have one musical love in common. This will take about 2 minutes of your space-time: