On the Internet, everyone is a critic — a Yelp-fueled takedown artist, an Amazon scholar, a cheerleader empowered by social media to Like and to Share. The inflated, always suspect authority of ink-stained wretches like me has been leveled by digital anarchy. Who needs a cranky nag when you have a friendly algorithm telling you, based on your previous purchases, that there is something You May Also Like, and legions of Facebook friends affirming the wisdom of your choice?
The days of the all-powerful critic are over. But that figure — high priest or petty dictator, destroying and consecrating reputations with the stroke of a pen — was always a bit of a myth, an allegorical monster conjured up by timid artists and their insecure admirers. Criticism has always been a fundamentally democratic undertaking. It is an endless conversation, rather than a series of pronouncements.