Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Web of Critique

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Once, long ago, in a distant galaxy, my Grade 2 teacher singled me out for critique. She had asked the class to draw a baseball game, and given that I had limited interest in sports and knew little or nothing about baseball, I made a half-hearted attempt to imagine and then sketch out a baseball diamond, some players and a stadium filled with onlookers. It was only after my teacher explained to the class that I had grasped the basics of perspective that I noticed a sea of stick men drawn across flat horizons. Suddenly, I was special—I was “the artist.”

Of course, my artistic ability was more a reflection of the tiny talent pool that I was wading in. For a brief moment, I enjoyed a creative edge, but soon the competition grew stiffer. In high school, there were not only sketchers and drawers but musicians and budding cartoonists, and decorators and designers. By university, I was only one of many aspiring artistes in a fine art program. Talent, I discovered, was relative.

Relativism lies at the heart of online culture, too. It is a world where talent (or the lack of it) is scrutinized, dissected, praised, dispatched or dismissed by anonymous, generous, kindly, passive-aggressive, mean spirited, psychopathic or benign fans and followers, their praise or virtual arrows poised at the ready. No longer big fish in small ponds, each of us sink or swim in this vast ocean of public opinion, a kind or cruel sea where some bask and others perish in its crimson tide. As in days of the Roman Coliseum, online critique is instantaneous, glorious and often brutal—the thoughtful review replaced with the ubiquitous thumbs up or down. Here, in the deep, we all tread water, buoyed by hope that someday our ship will come.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

David Tucker

David Tucker is an award-winning television writer, producer and director. His short story collection, One Way Ticket, is published by BookLand Press.

Go to David Tucker’s Author Page