C h a z z W r i t e s . c o m

Write and publish with love and fury.

The one critic who made me weep

We often don’t think deeply about the good that criticism can do. The kids are watching the charming movie, Ratatouille, over and over. For reasons of my change in occupation in the last year (i.e. writing full-time) I paid more attention to the review within the movie, a voice over by the character of the demanding critic, Anton Ego. It’s a fun movie, but this one bit about criticism? Hearing it afresh in new circumstances and caught by surprise, the speech moved me to tears. Not a lot of tears, but definitely misty.

“The new needs friends.” Oh, my, yes.

Here is Anton Ego on the good critics can do:

In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little, yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so. But there are times when a critic truly risks something, and that is in the discovery and defense of the *new*. The world is often unkind to new talent, new creations. The new needs friends. Last night, I experienced something new: an extraordinary meal from a singularly unexpected source. To say that both the meal and its maker have challenged my preconceptions about fine cooking is a gross understatement. They have rocked me to my core. In the past, I have made no secret of my disdain for Chef Gusteau’s famous motto, “Anyone can cook.” But I realize, only now do I truly understand what he meant. Not everyone can become a great artist; but a great artist *can* come from *anywhere*. It is difficult to imagine more humble origins than those of the genius now cooking at Gusteau’s, who is, in this critic’s opinion, nothing less than the finest chef in France. I will be returning to Gusteau’s soon, hungry for more.

See the movie again. It might get to you, too.

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