The role of the critic – Wystan Curnow and Peter Holland at the Auckland Writers Festival

Cover of The Critic's partShakepeare critic - and doppelganger - Peter Holland, and New Zealand art critic Wystan Curnow were on stage with Rosabel Tan, editor of the awesome must-read Pantograph Punch. This was a meaty and intellectual session to kick off my Auckland Writers Festival.

There was much to ponder on and unpack - the idea of critic as a mediator, the differences between criticism and reviewing, understanding, judgement, objectivity.

Peter Holland talked about "reviewing for history":

I want to know that moment.

He had an appropriately Shakespearean reference on hand to explain the role of the critic "to help other people see best":

See better, Lear.

Wystan Curnow's sense is that:

The really dedicated critic is full of desire for the work.

Both have difficulties with the word "critic" and people's perception of it. "The word is a slippery one" said Peter.

It's so easy to be rude ...sneering puns and jokes, that's the reviewer showing off.

Neither felt it necessary to be a "put the boot in" kind of critic. Both prefer the critic's role to be one of explanation, elucidation, focus, and mediation.

Wystan said:

What you don't write about is in itself a judgement.

In Auckland Writers Festival sessions, not only do you come away wanting to read - or re-read - the books by the presenters, you get some topnotch reading tips. Peter's suggestions:

Other comments

Auckland Writers Festival

We welcome your respectful and on-topic comments and questions in this limited public forum. To find out more, please see Appropriate Use When Posting Content. Community-contributed content represents the views of the user, not those of Christchurch City Libraries