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Issue 32 - Everyone's a critic

Whisky Magazine Issue 32
July 2003


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Everyone's a critic

Now expose your palms and check for salt, romance or poetry, says Michael Jackson

In one of my several lives, I was briefly acquainted with Clive Barnes, who was at the time senior drama critic of The New York Times. As the only ‘serious' broadsheet in New York, The Times thrust upon Clive a mantle of power about which he was ambivalent.

If he praised a production, it would have the staying power of Johnnie Walker. If he as much as blinked during the first night, it would also be the last. He could enjoy it when his verdict ensured a long run for actors who needed the work. The second option distressed him. He was dubbed ‘The Butcher of Broadway', but he did not wish to give people's careers the chop.

If I remember right, Clive grew up in a poor neighbourhood and came to prominence as a critic on a newspaper. His writing was rooted in passion for theatre. He wanted to share that passion, not close down shows.

Fortunately, writers on malt beverages do not live in such a claustrophobic world. Some people tell me that my writing has done wonders for their products' sales, but no brewery or distillery has been extinguished by my pen.

There is an expression: ‘everyone's a critic'. This is properly delivered with a Jewish shrug.

The most famous critic to notice my own work was Anthony Burgess, a favourite among book-page editors.

The wider public may be less familiar with Burgess than with one of his own novels – or, at least, its title. I am sure fewer people read A Clockwork Orange than saw the movie.

Burgess described my tasting notes as “poe...

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