The power of love

By CHRISTOPHER GRAY  |  March 19, 2008

Let’s Talk About Love serves as both a handy affirmation of opinions — snobby and sappy — and a guidebook to what Wilson hopes could be “a more pluralistic criticism,” one that “might put less stock in defending its choices and more in depicting its enjoyment.” One, in essence, less based on taste, and more based on personal response.

This is itself a sentimental idea — newspapers and “formal” outlets of criticism spurn personal asides and allusions of subjectivity (as though they could be avoided) — but it’s an effective thought experiment when considering music we otherwise wouldn’t be drawn to. This personal and pluralistic mindset is fairly common in Web criticism, where some of the most influential MP3 blogs — Daytrotter, Said the Gramophone — are both heart-on-sleeve and uncommonly perceptive.

Wilson’s “journey to the end of taste” doesn’t eradicate taste as a concept, but it makes a convincing (and, to my mind, pretty harrowing) argument that taste as something “good” or “bad” is a lie. We all want art to enlighten us, but some of us need to get over Miss Misery and others just need to be reminded that their hearts will go on.

Christopher Gray gets disturbingly personal about schmaltz, Elliott Smith, and this book at this week. He can be reached at

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