Better Living Through Criticism Book Summary By A.O. Scott

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Better Living Through Criticism is a book that delves into the importance of criticism in our lives.

It looks back at the historical origins of criticism and examines its impact on art, literature, and culture today.

It then dives into how technology has changed the way we think about criticism and offers an engaging exploration of what the future could hold for digital critics.

This book is an insightful look into an often overlooked but vital part of our society.

The detailed description of criticism's role in both the past and present provides readers with knowledge they can use to engage critically with art, culture, and thought moving forward.

Better Living Through Criticism

Book Name: Better Living Through Criticism (How to Think About Art, Pleasure, Beauty and Truth)

Author(s): A.O. Scott

Rating: 3.6/5

Reading Time: 16 Minutes

Categories: Personal Development

Author Bio

The author of the book "Better Living Through Criticism" is A.O.

Scott, a renowned film critic and professor of Film Criticism at Wesleyan University.

He began his career as a film critic for the New York Times in 2000, and he was named Chief Film Critic in 2004.

In addition to his role as film critic for the New York Times, Scott also writes regularly for both the New York Times Magazine and Book Review.

He has an impressive repertoire of writing that speaks to his immense knowledge and insights on film criticism and its power to influence our lives.

The Crucial Role Of Critics: Understanding The Necessity Of Critical Thinking In Society

Critical Thinking In Society

We know it can be hard to embrace your inner critic, but it can actually be beneficial.

In the book “Better Living Through Criticism,” you will learn why it is important to accept and acknowledge criticism in our society.

From how critics emerged in the past to what the digital age means for their future, this book dives deep into understanding the role of the critic.

It highlights why Moby-Dick became a true work of art many decades after its release and emphasizes how an analysis from someone outside of an art form can help others appreciate it on a deeper level.

Reading and embracing critiques can give us a better understanding of art, which allows us to more easily appreciate its beauty and purpose.

If you’re interested in learning more about this concept, pick up a copy of “Better Living Through Criticism” today!

How Art And Criticism Are Inextricably Linked

Critics often have to contend with the fact that their opinions may be controversial or unpopular.

They must also react to art in the moment without fear of backlash.

In today’s culture, an artist can create a piece of work that is both a hit and an underground success at the same time.

With this fast-paced world, criticism often needs to keep up with it as well.

A critic is expected to tackle what can be a challenging task – examining artwork in its current context and environment when assumptions and expectations shift quickly.

Criticism attempts to uncover new perspectives while occasionally stirring up debates and conversations which may not be readily accepted by everyone.

One example of this was when the author of Better Living Through Criticism wrote his review on The Avengers: Age of Ultron movie provoking actor Samuel L.

Jackson’s angry reaction towards him online.

What followed was a heated online conflict with thousands attacking him but selling themselves short as this situation turned into one that made Scott infamous rather than putting his job in jeopardy for voicing his opinion on the film critically.

Art And Criticism Are Two Sides Of The Same Coin: Human Creativity

Human Creativity

Critics and artists may appear to be rivals, but history shows us that this is far from the truth.

In fact, art and criticism draw strength from the same source: human creativity.


Eliot pointed out that the only difference between criticism and art is that criticism can’t exist without having some piece of art to respond to – though one could argue that much influential art arose from the artist’s own responses to other pieces of artwork.

Filmmakers like the Coen Brothers and Quentin Tarantino combine elements from films that inspired them with their own ideas to create something new, while hip hop and electronic music artists sample melodies, beats and fragments from other music sources – often resulting in original and unexpected creations.

These kinds of acts of appraisal provide fascinating reflections on previous artworks while also giving them new significance in contemporary contexts – which might arguably make hip hop producers or film directors accidental critics as well.

And famously, some critics have gone on to become successful artists themselves; George Bernard Shaw was a prominent English-language drama critic who was also one of Britain’s greatest playwrights, while T.S.

Eliot and Samuel Taylor Coleridge are still studied for their work in literary criticism as well as for their poetry.

So although at first glance it may appear that there is a divide between these two groups, ultimately it’s clear that both art and criticism can come from the same source: human creativity!

The Power Of Affirmation And Community In Shaping Our Tastes In Art

Our taste in art, music, fashion and film are a reflection of the communities we engage with.

We naturally gravitate to those who share our likes and enjoy the feeling of affirmation it brings us.

We find this not only in our local neighborhoods but also in social media, where bloggers, influencers and other channels play an important role in forming our tastes.

However, these evolving stages of life can make formerly beloved interests feel outdated or even embarrassing.

The extent to which culture shapes beauty is something that was brought into question by medieval philosophers Immanuel Kant and Edmund Burke.

They put forward the concept of ‘subjective universality’ – suggesting that human beings universally agree on what they consider beautiful.

Today, while we may still have many similarities in terms of what’s considered beautiful out there, it’s become clear that culture and commercial forces play a huge part in influencing opinion – making us stop and rethink certain reactions those first impressions when it comes to artworks.

The Power Of Criticism: How Criticisms Both Hurt And Help Us

Power Of Criticism

Bein gcritically honest is a huge part of the critic’s role in society – they need to speak their truth without worrying about offending people.

This has always been difficult and there have been times when critics were accused of bias when their opinions didn’t conform with cultural beliefs.

The critic’s ability to tell things as they are makes them trusted and respected by the public, even though their honest opinions can be unpopular.

In some cases, it can ruin an author’s career – Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick was met with harsh reviews when it was first published, leading Melville to withdraw into obscurity for the rest of his life; yet if it weren’t for those original reviews that criticized the book, we might never have heard of Moby-Dick today.

Although modern society may be skeptical as to whether critics are still necessary in this day and age, criticism provides us with thought-provoking commentary and valuable historical records that cannot be ignored.

It’S Time For Critics To Own Up To Being Wrong: How Objective Reviews Can Generate Real Discussion About Art

Critics have a responsibility to be honest in their critiques and to offer up subjective opinions that can help us uncover universal truths about art and culture.

But, sometimes, this means that a critic might need to take the risk of getting something wrong in order to create conversation around it.

The score aggregator Rotten Tomatoes is based on just such a principle – by combining reviews from many different critics, it provides a score for how society as a whole feels about a movie.

This kind of discussion helps us come to common ground with our judgments.

It’s unfortunate, however, that many contemporary critics attempt to dodge this requirement by simply avoiding being wrong – instead, they rely heavily on empty buzzwords like “captivating” and “mesmerizing” in their reviews which not only lacks substance but actively detracts from their role in stimulating conversation.

A critic must sometimes make the wrong judgment if they are to spark constructive debates – these can lead to greater understanding amongst participants and open up new opportunities for learning and exploration of ideas.

How Critics Play A Vital Role In Preserving And Appreciating Cultural Products

Cultural Products

Critics play a pivotal role in connecting new generations to masterpieces of the past, and in bringing undiscovered art to the public’s attention.

As we have greater access to cultural output than ever before, critics are able to help us distinguish which works are truly worth exploring, as well as revisit and revise judgments based on hindsight.

Take the classic screwball comedy Bringing Up Baby – many film critics at the time dismissed it as one unremarkable movie among a pile of similarly unimpressive productions.

Yet over time, later reviewers offered different opinions and aided in reviving interest in the film – today, Critics reminded us that it was a timeless masterpiece!

The same could be said for today’s superhero movies.

While contemporary critics may drag it through the mud, some of them might eventually be revered as classics of this century down the road – an effect that is due entirely to criticism helping usher what was wrongly overlooked into conversation.

The Rise Of Amateur Criticism: Uneducated Voices Competing With The Pros

The digital age has certainly revolutionized the way that people share their opinions and provide feedback, which has resulted in an overabundance of critics.

With the rise of sites like Yelp, Goodreads, and Rotten Tomatoes, amateurs have become authorities on reviews and criticism.

This means that professional critics now have to compete with this influx of new commentators to have their voices heard.

People who don’t necessarily have specialized training in critical thinking or education can be just as influential–if not more so–than established critics.

This has created a tension within the critical community about whether or not these new forms of criticism should be welcomed.

The reality is that there is no stopping the flood of amateur reviews in our current culture.

Students who are dedicated to studying and practicing critique now face a difficult challenge: they must master how to write meaningful criticism at an incredible pace if they want anyone to take notice of them amongst all the other voices out there.

And while some may lament this abundance of reviewers, it’s clear that they’re here to stay!

Can Digital Media Titans Breathe Fresh Life Into The Practice Of Criticism?

In the ever-changing world of media, critics must evolve beyond print in order to remain relevant and continue their craft.

This is because the rise of the internet and changes in attention span have rendered print journalism a risky endeavor.

Social media commentary often overtakes long-form criticism, leaving little room for thoughtful discourse.

Consequently, traditional media outlets are struggling to keep up with digital competitors who offer content for free or next to nothing.

These conditions have driven staff and budgets down, weakening even well established publications.

Furthermore, critics feel pressure create catchy phrases or headlines instead of thought-provoking arguments, which is rarely conducive to good criticism.

Therefore, traditional critics must be cognizant of this shift towards the digital space and take cues from writers who blaze trails online.

These successful bloggers build online portfolios that allow them to score positions at major internet publishing companies such as BuzzFeed, giving them a platform to hone their journalistic skills within a new context – one which may be key in reviving critical thought and discussion in the modern era.

Wrap Up

The message of Better Living Through Criticism is simple yet powerful: criticism is an essential and omnipresent part of life.

In order to have an informed opinion on almost any topic, issue, or creative work, it’s necessary to practice and excel at criticism.

This book provides readers with the tools they need to hone their skills as critical thinkers, offering valuable insights on how to identify and evaluate both good and bad in a wide range of topics.

By learning to engage in thoughtful criticism with insight and sensitivity, it’s possible to not only improve one’s understanding of the world but also enhance our lives as well.

Arturo Miller

Hi, I am Arturo Miller, the Chief Editor of this blog. I'm a passionate reader, learner and blogger. Motivated by the desire to help others reach their fullest potential, I draw from my own experiences and insights to curate blogs.

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