I've always enjoyed reading criticism, so this book had some appeal. Like any good critic, Scott can dissect his views from many different and conflicting angles. He examines criticism from a stance grounded in Aristotle, Kant, Mencken, Henry James, and Sontag, easily threading through those thickets of thought and presenting them as clear, walkable paths. In the end he's not very conclusive, but that's part of the point. I did like this passage:
Let's say that a critic is a person whose interest can help to activate the interest of others. ... For that to work, what the critic writes or says has to be interesting in itself. And, of course, it can only really succeed in that way if the critic's own interest is genuine. (p. 256)To be overly simplistic, for me the best criticism is that which sends you back to the work itself, either for a deeper appreciation or for a reexamination based on further evidence.
Reading List 2016-06-13:
*Erikson, Steven. Forge of Darkness (reread/started)
*Scott, A. O. Better Living Through Criticism (finished)
*Barthelme, Donald. The Teachings of Don B. (in progress)
*Hinds, Andrew. Acting Shakespeare’s Language (in progress)