Oct 24, 2009

A Nose for Criticism

There is something to be said about stereotypes: hooked noses turn up with alarming regularity on the faces of critics of every historical age, gender or genre.

Before you decide that I am exaggerating, please consider these: John Ruskin, the art critic and culture sage of Victorian times, stared down an  aquiline nose that matched perfectly with his long flowing white beard. T. S. Eliot, who was a great literary critic apart from being one of my favourite poets, had a roman nose with a magnificent hook. Architecture and culture critic Lewis Mumford had one too, and so does one of Britain's finest literary theorists and critics, Terry Eagleton.

What began as a simple curiosity has now become a question that keeps me awake some nights: if I continue to write criticism, will I also end up with an extra-prominent proboscis?

I thought it was just male critics who were thus afflicted, or just caucasian critics, but I was wrong on both counts: Ananda K. Coomaraswamy, the definitive scholar and critic of Indic art, Pauline Kael, hard-nosed influential film critic, and Kapila Vatsyayan, the doyenne of Indian art and aesthetics, all bear the trademark nose of their trade.

But in all fairness, I must consider one important fact. While it is a myth that the human nose and ears never stop growing, the cartilage in the nose does continue to grow slightly, making older people's noses look longer. And of course, none of these photographs show the critics in their not-so-hooked-nose youth.

However, these fine critics weren't the inspiration for the name of this blog. That distinction goes to an entirely fictional critic: Anton Ego, from the animated film, Ratatouille.

Ego's critical nose is backed not only by a colourful story, but also by a wonderful soliloquy on criticism, that you can watch here.


  1. hehe,
    hooku mooku mama you will become.

  2. nice piece of observation, and a humbling note on criticism with that video. best with what you aspire to do, especially for what's in india/asia.

  3. brilliant!
    nice blog too.


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