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About the book
  • Published: 2 May 2016
  • ISBN: 9781910702550
  • Imprint: Jonathan Cape
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 288
  • RRP: $27.99

Better Living Through Criticism: How to Think about Art, Pleasure, Beauty and Truth




The New York Times chief film critic shows why we need criticism now more than ever

Few could explain, let alone seek out, a career in criticism. Yet what A. O. Scott shows in Better Living Through Criticism is that we are, in fact, all critics: because critical thinking informs almost every aspect of artistic creation, of civil action, of interpersonal life. With penetrating insight and humour, Scott shows that while individual critics – himself included – can make mistakes and find flaws where they shouldn't, criticism as a discipline is one of the noblest, most creative and urgent activities.

Using his own film criticism as a starting point – everything from an infamous dismissal of the international blockbuster The Avengers to his intense affection for Pixar's animated Ratatouille – Scott expands outwards, easily guiding readers through the complexities of Rilke and Shelley, the origins of Chuck Berry and the Rolling Stones, the power of Marina Abramovic and 'Ode on a Grecian Urn' Scott shows that real criticism was and always will be the breath of fresh air that allows true creativity to thrive. As he puts it: ‘The time for criticism is always now, because the imperative to think clearly, never goes away.’

  • Pub date: 2 May 2016
  • ISBN: 9781910702550
  • Imprint: Jonathan Cape
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 288
  • RRP: $27.99

About the Author

A. O. Scott

A. O. Scott has been a film critic at the New York Times since 2000. His writing has appeared in many other publications, including the New York Review of Books, Slate, the New Yorker and the Nation. A finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in criticism in 2010, Scott is currently Distinguished Professor of Film Criticism at Wesleyan University. He lives with his family in Brooklyn, New York.

@aoscott


Praise for Better Living Through Criticism: How to Think about Art, Pleasure, Beauty and Truth

“He wears his considerable learning lightly – although not apologetically: Scott knows that the arguments he is exploring have a long pedigree.”

Jonathan Derbyshire, Financial Times

“It’s a serious tome that raises criticism to the level of art.”

Jonathan Dean, Sunday Times

“That he succeeds in speaking to us all…while at the same time delineating his own specific role in culture, is only one of the many pleasures to be found in this erudite work.”

Lesley Mcdowell, Independent on Sunday

“Jam-packed treasure trove… The result is often deeply rewarding.”

Andrew Barrow, Spectator

“Fluent, learned volume… Conscious of the irony that a culture in which everyone passionately wants their opinions heard is systematically devaluing critical thinking and analysis… Reflects the age-old critic's dilemma of how subjective to be – one of many fascinating quandaries that are put through the intellectual wringer here by a calm and clever champion of an unfashionable art.”

Hannah McGill, Independent

“Profound yet also perhaps surprisingly uplifting appreciation of the art of criticism… He blends intimacy with something more objective, which is perhaps the ideal combination for the critic… That he succeeds in speaking to us all ("everyone’s a critic"), whilst at the same time delineating his own specific role in culture, is only one of the many pleasures to be found in this erudite work.”

Lesley McDowell, Independent

“You don’t have to have a personal investment in the future of criticism to find this a stimulating read.”

Hannah McGill

“I love Scott’s characterization of criticism… Better Living Through Criticism is, in short, both the most important and the most annoying book on the topic I’ve read in years. Scott cold not have picked a better time to highlight the usefulness of criticism than this moment.”

Sight and Sound

“Truly accessible, avoids obscurity and demonstrates learning without demanding it of the reader… Nothing less than a work of art.”

Tanjil Rashid, Prospect

“One of the funniest, smartest, most articulate critics around.”

Gaby Wood, Daily Telegraph

“One of the funniest, smartest, most articulate critics around.”

Gaby Wood, Daily Telegraph

“An engaging host… His voice is good-natured, even chummy, the prose populous and bright.”

Jenny Hendrix, Times Literary Supplement


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