We have lost an unforgettable teacher and one of Britain’s great critics

Tanner, the critic RICHARD BRATBY Michael Tanner (1935-2024), who died earlier this month, had such a vital mind and stood so far above the common run of music critics that it’s hard to believe he’s gone. For a philosopher to concern themself with the inner game of opera is not unknown (think of Friedrich Nietzsche and Roger Scruton). To do it as perceptively and as readably as Tanner is rarer. For two decades, starting in  1996, his weekly Spectator opera column offered as thorough and as stimulating an education in musical aesthetics as one could hope to receive; intellectual red meat served with forensic clarity and a mischievous, subversive smile.

When did postmodernism begin?

There’s a scene in Martin Amis’s 1990s revenge comedy The Information in which a book reviewer, who’s crushed by his failures and rendered literally impotent by his best friend’s success, is sitting in a low-lit suburban room beside a girl (not his wife) named Belladonna: ‘She was definitely younger than him. He was a modernist. She was the thing that came next.’ Stuart Jeffries argues in his new book that the thing that came next was in fact a thing that started a couple of decades before Amis wrote The Information. In Jeffries’s telling, postmodernity can be dated to 13 August 1971, when Richard Nixon held a closed-door meeting that

Has Covid killed criticism?

The pandemic was bad for criticism with its universal dogma of ‘kindness’. Restaurant, theatre, film and book critics felt compelled to be kind, as if criticism itself was coughing at a death bed. But who does this kindness benefit? Last year I reviewed Michael Rosen’s book about his Covid-19-related coma: Many Different Kinds of Love. I liked it, but I suggested that publishing the notes people had written to him as he lay in the coma was a waste of both their time and ours. Rosen didn’t like this and moaned on Twitter: ‘I think they are the power and the beauty of the ordinary. And how extraordinary that this

Critical thinking: the difference between ‘critique’ and ‘criticise’

Six years ago I wrote here about critique, as a noun or verb, and things have gone from bad to worse, as expected. I didn’t like it then, and even my husband was repelled. I had thought that people were trying to avoid the negative connotation of criticise. But both words are now used in precisely the same way. Sportswriters often reveal the real way in which words are used. The other day Mary Waltz wrote: ‘This is not a critique. But the Finland goal was a save Schmeichel makes in his sleep.’ She probably meant the same as ‘This is not a criticism’ — i.e. not a negative criticism.

A salmagundi of tedium: The White Pube podcast reviewed

The White Pube started life as an influential art blog, written by Zarina Muhammad and Gabrielle de la Puente. The name announced iconoclastic intent, playing on the White Cube gallery — which certainly deserves mockery (like a city law firm, it has outposts in Hong Kong and Manhattan). But The White Pube podcast is as inanely conventional as the gallery it makes fun of. Each episode is an hour-long salvo by the hosts, or ‘art critic baby gods’, and as with their exhibition reviews — rated with emojis, not stars — conversation is appealingly informal and spontaneous. But they have little of interest to say, especially about their ostensible subject.