I suppose I am actually taking a different tack from the "why can't we have more sophisticated arts criticism" and going for the much more Australian excitement of, say, a kick in the head, or roo-boxing, or a game against Port Adelaide. "If you can't win the game win the fight," should be heard from the stands. Think of it as a kind of anti-nuance crusade.
Well, thinks I: let's have some nuance in the first place, before we start campaigning against it. But essentially, I agree with Daniel's main point: watching artists and critics be up-front about their aesthetic differences, ready to defend them with passion and wit, can be one of the great spectator sports. And - if it doesn't descend into brain-dead brawling, with polarised camps scowling at each other like chimpanzees and hurling excrement - it makes us all smarter.
There are two usual responses to challenge in this town: (a) pretend it didn't happen, or (b) smear one's opponent. (Or both). Daniel has a great example of the first strategy: he links to a letter he wrote to the Age after the first production under the new Malthouse team - Michael Kantor's repertory productions of Patrick White's A Ham Funeral and Tom Wright's Journal of a Plague Year - prompted reviews of hostile indifference from Helen Thompson. (My take on those productions, and Helen's responses, here ) Sadly, if predictably, Daniel's letter ended up being published in Real Time rather than the Age. And then no one took any notice, anyway.
In connection with the silence, and the silencings, I often think of Michael Dransfield's poem Like This for Years:
In the cold weather
the cold city the cold
heart of something as pitiless as apathy...
Or equally, of Pope's Dunciad, in which the goddess Dulness drowns everything in a giant yawn:
Nor public flame, nor private, dares to shine;
Nor human spark is left, nor glimpse divine!
When you think that Horace was complaining about the same things, I guess there's one consolation, poor as it is: it was ever thus.