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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Notable & Quotable: Anton Ego on Critics

The other night, my kids wanted to watch Disney's Ratatouille. It's not my favorite Pixar film (all those rats - ewww), but it's still a fun one. I've seen the movie a few times; evidently, I never paid attention to the ending. The story concludes with Anton Ego (voiced by Peter O'Toole), the most fearsome restaurant critic in Paris, reading the review he writes about Gusteau's. The speech is so interesting, and definitely applies to us book reviewers. Here's a YouTube video of it as well as the text of what he's says (I transcribed it myself, so there may be errors):

"In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little, yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face is that, in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so.

But there are times when a critic truly risks something, and that is in the discovery and defense of the new. The world is often unkind to new talent, new creations. The new needs friends ...

Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere."

Interesting, right? What do you think? Do you agree? Disagree? Discuss.


  1. I really like that you shared that. I never got through this Pixar film and it's surprising (and nifty) to find a quote appropriate for our book blogging world.

    I guess for me, though, is I struggle with writing negative reviews. Maybe not so much for popular authors - I wasn't a fan of King's "On Writing" and although I think that I was tactful, I had no qualms saying I didn't care for it. But new authors? Whether it's an ARC or a purchased book from a newbie, I feel terrible giving a negative review. My quest for authenticity and honesty always overrules; I just tend to give props to the author for trying. Luckily this year hasn't put me in a position of too many negative reviews. I've lucked out.

    *shrug* What can I say, I'd rather be a cheerleader than a lyncher!


  2. I struggle writing negative reviews as well. I do rate books on how much I like them, but I've explained why I didn't enjoy it as much as others, and try to put in good points about the author. I have yet to find a book I've absolutely hated, but I'm sure a time will come when I will find one.
    I also feel terrible giving a negative review when I am given an ARC or whatever. If I truly didn't like it, I will still try to be positive about it and say what I didn't like in a tactful way. I've lucked out I guess, like the previous poster. I haven't gotten any books I've hated yet.:)

  3. I, for one, watched the movie all the way through the first time and have always loved Anton Ego's quote. *pats self on back*

    "[T]he average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so."

    The more I write of my own book, the more props I have to give to anyone who was able to actually finish a whole book, with ANY degree of skill. While I still mock published works whenever I notice that they fall short of the exacting standard I dream my own writing will meet someday, every one of those authors has accomplished something I have not, just by finishing it.

    (Moreover, I'm haunted by the whole judge-not-that-ye-be-not-judged thing....)


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