How Is Mid-Brow Arts Coverage Better Than High-Brow Arts Coverage?

Inspired by a conversation between Seth Roberts and Tyler Cowen about Entertainment Weekly, a magazine that as a German I have never read. By arts I mean mainly films, music, literature. I don't read articles about sculptures.

1. In mid-brow coverage, the articles appear to be written for the reader. On the contrary, high-brow coverage has a lot of showing off in it. I distinctly remember an article by Ulrich Greiner in Die Zeit in which parallels were drawn between The Gospel of Matthew and Moby-Dick. I've read both and I can tell you that was patently absurd. It was as though the author was jumping up and down, shouting: "Look a' me! Look a' me! I can see connections others can't!" (Even worse: A review of the latest Bob Mould album in the left-wing intellectual music magazine Spex. You learned nothing about the music on the album, but a lot about the author's views on world politics. I think the bottom line was that the USA are evil.)

There is a variant of the impressing-the-reader problem. I once read a review of Nick McDonnel's Twelve* in which the reviewer gave away something the reader of the book only learns in the last chapter and conveniently mentioned that the same device could be found in a book by Dostoyevski. I had never seen the name of the reviewer before in that paper (also Die Zeit. No, I don't subscribe to them anymore.) "Ah", I thought: "Freelancer tries to show the editor she's read Dostoyevski!"

2. Mid-brow publications use ratings. Very handy. When something gets 2/5, I know I can skip the text. For this reason I suggest ratings should always be above the text.

3. Many mid-brow publications have the extremely convenient feature "You might like this if you liked..." So if I read a review of a comedy that gets 5/5, but it says, "You might like this if you liked Dumb and Dumber", I know it's not for me. Conversely, if a review is only 3/5, but it says, "You might like this if you liked A Clockwork Orange", I might still go and see the film.

*5/5. You might like this if you liked Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas; Henry Miller, Silent Days in Clichy.

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