Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Criticism: a sure and simple method

Whenever I am about to publish a book, I feel an impatient desire to know what kind of a book it is. Of course I can find this out only by waiting until the critics shall have printed their reviews. I do know, beforehand, what the verdict of the general public will be, because I have a sure and simple method of ascertaining that. Which is this - if you care to know. I always read the manuscript to a private group of friends, composed as follows:

1. Man and woman with no sense of humor.
2. Man and woman with medium sense of humor.
3. Man and woman with prodigious sense of humor.
4. An intensely practical person.
5. A sentimental person.
6. Person who must have a moral in, and a purpose.
7. Hypercritical person - natural flaw-picker and fault-finder.
8. Enthusiast - person who enjoys anything and everything, almost.
9. Person who watches the others, and applauds or condemns with the majority.
10. Half a dozen bright young girls and boys, unclassified.
11. Person who relishes slang and familiar flippancy.
12. Person who detests them.
13. Person of evenly-balanced judicial mind.
14. Man who always goes to sleep.

These people accurately represent the general public.

-- Mark Twain, "Whenever I Am About to Publish a Book," from Who Is Mark Twain? (Harper Studio)

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Click on hairy, scary Friedrich Engels to read "Poets Classed by Beard Weight," via A Journey Round My Skull (sadly, it omits heavyweights John Berryman, Allen Ginsberg, and W.D. Snodgrass, observes the bearded Michael Marcinkowski)

And click here to rediscover the pleasures of hating. THE GHOST OF ROBERT LOWELL SAYS: BOO!

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