JAMES PLATT WHITE.
A characteristic feature of modern newspaper criticism is the ‘slam.’ The fundamental principles upon which ‘slams’ are based are as follows: The writer of a ‘slam’ ought to be quite young, not long out of college. That is the only sort of person who knows enough to construct a really effective ‘slam.’ After one has been out of college for a few years the dividing lines between what is good art and what is bad art become more vague. The would-be critic starts out in life with a sort of Procrustean ideal of measurement, to which everything has to be cut down. He is blissfully sure of his standards, and does not need to bother his mind over any possibilities in the way of new artistic developments. Only after he begins to delve into the history of criticism upon his own account does he wake up to the fact that ‘the genius is the thing,’ and that the slings and arrows of outrageous critics have been powerless to crush him out.
What is true of the great genius is also true of the genuinely talented person. ‘Slams’ do not crush him out, they only call attention to him, which is fortunate because the majority of people engaged in creative work to-day possess talent rather than genius.
But a still more important fundamental principle to be observed by the writer of ‘slams’ is that he must resolutely shut his eyes to any qualities which appeal, even to him, as good qualities, while dwelling with ferocious zest upon every point that he can possibly magnify into a flaw. Or he may even fly at one bound to a pinnacle of wisdom by basing his criticism entirely upon the first chapter or the last chapter of a book, or the first act or the last act of a play. Or he may win his spurs for smartness by deliberate misstatements, born, perhaps, of carelessness, perhaps of the genuine desire to be downright disagreeable and funny. The one thing which he must carefully avoid is the slightest touch of genuine appreciation. This is not difficult, for appreciation means the power to enter into the point of view of the writer or the artist, and this the slinger of ‘slams’ is incapable of doing, even if he had the desire of so doing.
Blessed be the writer of ‘slams.’ He is as debonair and inconsequential as a young Hermes to whom only the serious lessons of life can teach sympathy and true insight, if he will let them.
Transcriber’s note: Nyarsnottin—the y has an acute accent.