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Few could explain, let alone seek out, a career in criticism. Yet what A. O. Scott shows in Better Living Through Criticism is that we are, in fact, all critics: because critical thinking informs almost every aspect of artistic creation, of civil action, of interpersonal life. With penetrating insight and humour, Scott shows that while individual critics – himself included – can make mistakes and find flaws where they shouldn't, criticism as a discipline is one of the noblest, most creative and urgent activities.
Using his own film criticism as a starting point – everything from an infamous dismissal of the international blockbuster The Avengers to his intense affection for Pixar's animated Ratatouille – Scott expands outwards, easily guiding readers through the complexities of Rilke and Shelley, the origins of Chuck Berry and the Rolling Stones, the power of Marina Abramovic and 'Ode on a Grecian Urn' Scott shows that real criticism was and always will be the breath of fresh air that allows true creativity to thrive. As he puts it: ‘The time for criticism is always now, because the imperative to think clearly, never goes away.’