I have been reading How to Talk About Books You Haven't Read by Pierre Bayard, French literature professor. Ironically, I am just about to finish reading it. In the last chapter, he explains the great value of the oft-mocked art critics.

Firstly, criticism is an essential part of the artistic process. Whenever an artist decides to cut a sentence here, or darken the sky over the cantaloupe he is painting, he is using his critical faculties. Every artist is a critic.

This is obvious.

And also criticism itself, outside of art creation, is a form of art. It is inspired by the subject of criticism, which the critic may have read, skimmed, or merely heard of from others. But it is distinct. It incorporates the critic's own worldview and places the work in a larger context. It is the gallery, architected by the critic, in which the original work is placed.

By offering a setting to discuss the work in, discussing the work with another person becomes easier. There are already positions to be elaborated, modified, and used to connect the work to other works, continuing the human connection. And that human connection is ultimately where the value of art lies.

So all those comments I read on internet forums are not intrinsically worthless. They may be. It depends on the position of the reader and the writer, like any book.

For example, a year ago, I read a comment on Hacker News that described and praised this very book, and filed it into my plan-to-read on OpenLibrary. Then, months ago, I was talking with my coworker Oscar and this faint memory of someone else's description of the book was enough to be a partner in a good conversation about the book. It turned out he had actually read it a while ago. As a result, I went and read it. In hindsight, in that conversation I was victim of many of the very insecurities that Bayard takes to task in his book.

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