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You’ll get no criticism from me about amateur reviewers

Everyone's a critic. And now they can criticise like never before. This has raised an interesting question and, while I can't think what that is for the moment, here's another one: are professional critics still needed?

It's not me asking but yon Guardian newspaper, sparking another debate about how the internet is changing our lives.

The internet has allowed a democratisation of thought, which is very worrying. Where will it end? And who'll be our voices of authority?

I'm on a roll with the questions now, so stick this in your pipe and smoke it outside: do we need voices of authority on books, films, theatre etc?

Quick answer to the last question: yes. But — always a but — the untutored nutters, undiscovered geniuses, freaks, trollers, sadsacks and psychopaths can add their tuppence-worth online.

And sometimes they've contributed insights that put the original review to shame. Not often. I said “sometimes”.

Take these excellent reviews from Amazon, for example:

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“This book goes much deeper into how health, wealth, happiness & peace of mind can all be achieved, providing you with a dearth of inspiration.” Dearth, eh? Sounds challenging.

“Kurt Vonnegut has wrote a book about a hideously ugly set of twins who are geniuses together but when they are apart they are dim and supid.” Got that down to a t.

“This author is one of the more credible authors whom write about Taoism. Many whom call themselves masters are not.” Wow, whomungous.

“A genuine work of lietrature.” A work of fiction then?

Seeing this stuff, one can't help thinking it wiser to trust people given professional critics' jobs after rigorous interviews conducted by stern men and women.

I've never heard of such interviews in newspapers, which are generally run on the basis of corruption, nepotism and serendipity. But, theoretically, you get my drift.

Take me, for example. I've reviewed books, films and plays. I was even, for a mysteriously short period of time, a full-time television critic.

My book and theatre reviews were rarer. I didn't know anything about the theatre and was astonished to learn it involved real people on a stage. Films were different.

Once, I was sent to watch The Spice Girls Movie and was the only person in the world who gave it a good review. Why? I was getting paid to be at the pictures. Nothing could have ruined my mood, not even the movie.

The full-time reviewer on the Sunday Times never likes any films. This is where criticism goes wrong. Enjoyment just doesn't count.

I don't do book reviews. I did a couple early in my career, and they were terrible: “I quite liked this.” “Lavishly illustrated for a phone directory.”

I'd be better at it now, on my current medication, but I turn down all offers.

I think it's marvellous that anyone has got a book out at all. I always gave positive reviews and, consequently, was a disgrace to the profession.

But, as highlighted in the Guardian debate, it's the same few books that get reviewed in every paper. The awful novels of other journalists are always given good reviews.

And the self-importance is displayed by the critic's name being in larger type then the author's.

Yes, reviewing is grim work and, traditionally, somebody had to do it.

Now everybody's doing it and, ultimately, that's not a bad thing.


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