PRINT April 1992


I DISLIKE THE MESSIANIC VIEW allowing critics to speak with confidence (or these days, sell endorsements) on every issue in social life, and I do not think that those who refuse are acting irresponsibly or evading a public role. In a much more complicated way, I am also uneasy with the puritan variant that requires us to rehearse, in exemplary fashion and no matter what the occasion, our difficulties and crises of confidence in having access to public speech. My first ethical principle—which, as a self-employed writer, I cannot always carry out—is to respond as a critic only to what engages me so deeply and directly that I cannot not work for as long as it takes to articulate my engagement.

Objects and practices framed as art rarely have that effect on me, and my own sense of critical responsibility is rarely engaged by the problematic of art. This is partly just a matter of temperament,

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