Yes, I’m in Connecticut, but something came up that I thought was worth sharing. The critics of the Chicago Tribune recently published a series of columns called “Critical Reversals” in which they confessed–sort of–to having changed their minds about pieces they’d written in the past. (For links to the individual columns, go here.)
Not surprisingly, these columns have provoked a certain amount of comment in the blogosphere, much of it skeptical. As for me, I have a personal interest in “Critical Reversals,” for in 2002 I published a column in The Wall Street Journal called “The Contrite Critic” in which I discussed one of my own blunders:
The big news for balletomanes is the coming of the Mark Morris Dance Group to Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival. Tonight, the company will be giving the first of four performances of “L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato,” Mr. Morris’s evening-long stage version of the Handel oratorio. “L’Allegro” is one of the most important dances of the past quarter-century, so this week’s performances are by definition a great occasion.
They will also be an occasion for me to eat crow, since I am, so far as I know, the only critic ever to have given “L’Allegro” a bad review. Seven years ago, I covered the Lincoln Center premiere for the New York Daily News, and I just didn’t get it. I called “L’Allegro” “impressive in its seriousness, stunning in its inventiveness–and, ultimately, disappointing in its emotional flatness.” I’ve written my share of wrongheaded reviews, but that’s the one I regret most, because I was too dense to know a masterpiece when I saw it….
I mention this because it is a good thing for critics to abase themselves in public, even though we do it so rarely. I’ve changed my mind about art more than once, and I’ve learned that I not infrequently start by disliking something and end up liking it. Not always–sometimes I decide on closer acquaintance that a novel or painting isn’t as good as I’d thought. More often, though, I realize that it was necessary for me to grow into a fuller understanding of a work of art to which my powers of comprehension were not at first equal….