Why I Review


For me, reviewing the arts is a creative practice, a literary response to an experience in the world. It may, and inevitably will, include analysis, reportage, and advice to both artists and consumers. But at its heart it is an act of writing, the transformance of experience into words.

To review is to see again. The critics I have most admired, historically, are those whose prose calls up anew what it was like to be in a particular spot at a particular event as a particular individual. That none of us are the same and that we see the world in different ways only goes to make this all the richer as an experience. How did it feel to be Kenneth Tynan besotted by Olivier, Pauline Kael lapping up Godard, Edwin Denby immortalizing Balanchine, or Bernard Shaw canonizing Wagner and dismissing Wilde? Such critics place us, for moments at a time, in the seats they sat in, and catch us up, somehow, in the progress of their emotions and the sequence of their thoughts.

It is true that next to each of them may have sat someone who gazed stonily on the performances that thrilled them, or vice versa. Perhaps I would have hated Olivier as an actor on the stage, although I doubt it, but my life is enlarged by knowing through Tynan what it was like to be one of those who loved him. Even today, when the arts of mechanical reproduction are at their peak, there is value to being placed at the event through the aesthetic experience of one who was there.

That is, at any rate, what I have aspired to since first trying my hand at the art of the review. It has been exciting, on this site and, previously, on social media, to cross so many boundaries with this sensibility in mind. Its content is driven by what I choose to see, and to write about after, which inclines it, mostly but not always, toward the positive. The desire for art begins, for me, with enthusiasm, and quickens with the wanting of more. If my words in some way enlarge the lives of those who read them, as the critics I like the best have done for me, then I will have accomplished most, if not all, of what I set out to do.