Thursday, April 27, 2006

Critics from England are not interchangeable

Sometimes I get James Wood and Anthony Lane confused, perhaps because they are graceful writers and perhaps because they are singular figures.

I remember reading something David Thompson wrote about Anthony Lane being the most talented film critic on the scene, but a disappointment, in that Lane did not properly venerate the art he writes about. That, at least, was what I thought David Thompson was saying.

To my mind, its more heroic to write about films as if watching a film (and writing about watching a film) were no different from drinking a glass of water, or having a conversation with a stranger at the grocery store, or gossipping with someone, provided a certain degree of energy and talent is devoted to the task. If Anthony Lane, in other words, wrote about film the way James Wood writes about literature, Thompson would have nothing to complain about, but I might.

(Thompson's anxieties about Lane, however, have less to do with the philosophies behind Lane's criticism, than with envy of the veneer of effortlessness that abides in Lane's wit.)

I'm glad James Wood exists, though, and does what he does, because he shows us how important novels are, and how much they can mean.

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