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The Description is the Criticism

Roger Ebert, while writing about a mediocre film, notes:

I enjoyed this movie on its own dumb level, which must mean (I am forced to conclude) in my own dumb way. I perceive that I have supplied mostly a description of what happens in the film, filtered through my own skewed amusement. Does that make this a real review?

Funny you should ask. As it happens, I happened to be glancing at Gore Vidal’s article about the critic Edmund Wilson in a 1993 issue of the New York Review of Books. There Vidal writes: “Great critics do not explicate a text; they describe it and then report on what they have described, if the description itself is not the criticism.” In this case, I think the description itself is the criticism. Yes, I’m almost sure of it.

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