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Visit the active LitNet platform at www.litnet.co.za

Menings | Opinion > SeminaarKamer | Seminar Room > English > Mini-seminars

Are South African critics too soft?

Zukiswa Wanner - 2010-12-02

Having been both a writer and a critic I found the debate very interesting (I saw the original when Fiona brought it up.)

In being critical I am always anxious to criticise in such a way that future works are made better. Jabulile Ngwenya’s I Ain't Yo Bitch was one such a text. I felt that the text showed much promise for the teen reader but what it lacked was a good content edit – and this was by no means the fault of the author but rather of the editor and/or publisher. I have, however, been quite brutal once or twice where I felt a book (particularly when it’s a collection of essays) became emotive when facts were there to be gathered and make a stronger statement.

As a writer I have benefited greatly from reading some criticism. I read some and choose what I am going to take and not take – and generally what I have taken has helped to make me a better writer. However, in these days of technology, if a critic does not understand anything I have written or they feel it’s way out there, it might help their criticism to get in touch and ask some questions as this makes their writing more balanced. For instance, the book that got the most brutal slamming from critics, Behind Every Successful Man, is the book that has been doing very well in sales and I even get women accosting me in the malls for it.

That said, I have read some gratuitous criticism in literature, music, art and theatre in South Africa where one cannot help but think there is some envy from the critic. It is then that you think the saying “Those who can't do, crit” may have some truth to it. An example of this was Bongani Madondo’s criticism of Simphiwe Dana’s One Love. Not only did he fail to focus on the music, but rather he chose to get personal about the artist – and that, to me, should always be a no-go area.

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