John Simon, the critic who served as a model for my own foray into music criticism so many years ago, died yesterday at 94. Through his regular column in National Review, Simon introduced me to Jaroslav Hašek, Vladimir Nabokov, Robert Lowell, and so much more. For that I am eternally grateful.
Alas, with the death of Simon goes the death of criticism, it would seem, as evidenced by this steaming pile, published just last week: “As wildfires rage in Australia, a record-breaking hurricane season draws to a close, and meteorologists predict that this year will go down as the second-hottest in recorded history, it’s clear that Ford v Ferrari is the wrong movie for 2019.” Or this, published a few days earlier: “[Ford v Ferrari is] a beautifully shot film that will be enjoyable for modern car buyers and enthusiasts alike—engines rev, tires squeal, stopwatches click. But what I saw is a devastating picture of the lack of diversity that permeated the industry in the 1960s.”
This, folks, is apparently what passes for criticism these days. Artistic achievement, skilled craftsmanship, commercial success…none of this matters if you’re not sufficiently woke.
Mr. Simon, you’re already missed.