Sunday, December 4, 2011

Criticism and Yogurt

A friend turned me on to Charles Isherwood's Yogurt Shop, a delightful little blog mocking Charles Isherwood's theatre criticism in the Times.  If you want to learn how the site got its name -- and why each post features an incongruous photo of yogurt -- the "about" section offers only this quote by way of explanation:

‘[T]he prospect of five more [plays] next year ... frankly leaves me contemplating abandoning my vocation to open a yogurt shop in Long Island City.’ (Isherwood, NYT, 10/7/11)

If Isherwood has such disdain for his work, why should we treat his opinions so reverentially?  Perhaps I have, I realize, and perhaps I need to dig more deeply into his writing and compare him to his peers before taking his reviews at face value.

Each Yogurt Shop posts contains a quote from a review that, when taken out of context, does look pretty silly, an alluring photo of yogurt (presumably to give Isherwood that final push he needs to change careers), and tags.  Of the latter, some favorites:

  • Classic Isherwood Metaphor
  • Isherwood Openly Not Being Good at His Job
  • Isherwood Celebrates Mediocrity
  • Isherwood Asking the Tough Questions

Of course, such close scrutiny of a critic is its own kind of reverence, and, more generally, no matter how you write a review, someone can always find fault with it.  But Yogurt Shop serves as a refreshing reminder that the stakes of these reviews aren't necessarily as high as we think they are, and that one critic's opinion -- no matter what publication s/he writes for -- needn't be worth much more than a single-serve processed dairy product.

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