A.O. Scott joins Authors LIVE! series to discuss new book

A.O. Scott makes clear the value of criticism in his new book “Better Living Through Criticism: How to Think About Art, Pleasure, Beauty, and Truth.”

Scott, a long-time film critic for The New York Times, offered up his thoughts about the nature and necessity of criticism and the vital role it plays in shaping the cultural landscape at a recent forum in Dallas.

The Highland Park Library, Friends of the SMU Libraries, and Highland Park United Methodist Church co-sponsored the event in Wesley Hall on Monday, March 14.

Scott called criticism a form of art, a habit of mind, and an everyday practice open to all.

“Criticism is above all conversation, and it is not about authority, but one person speaking to another,” Scott told a crowd of around 80.

The author devoted time to answering questions about criticism, movies, art pleasure, beauty and truth.

“His ideas are fresh and the topic of conversation is not one that is addressed often,” said Lance Barasch, an SMU graduate student who attended the event. “Scott’s open approach and honesty created an interesting dialogue with the audience.”

A.O. Scott joined The New York Times as a film critic in 2000, and was named a chief critic in 2004. He also worked as a Sunday book reviewer for Newsday and a frequent contributor to Slate, The New York Review of Books, and other publications. He has also served on the editorial staffs of Lingua Franca and The New York Reviews of Books, and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Criticism in 2010. He is also a distinguished professor of film criticism at Wesleyan University.

A.O. Scott discussed his new book last night as part of the Authors LIVE! series. (Photo courtesy of: SMU)

Scott spoke about personal experiences and how he discovered the art of criticism at a young age.

“Today, millennials are collectors of their experiences and constantly share them through forms of social media,” said Scott. “This curiosity and sensation for experience reminds me of myself at a young age.”

As Scott grew up, he realized that what he found worth saving and collecting were forms of art, such as films, paintings and sculptures. The pleasure he found in these art forms came from internalizing the different reactions he had to them. He listened to those conflicting responses in his head, which helped him form opinions that eventually gave him the foundation for his work as a critic.

“In many ways, Scott’s reasoning comes off as a defense of the job,” said Taylor Henry, an SMU student who attended the event.

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