“No statue has ever been put up to a critic,” Sibelius is supposed to have said, offering up an aperçu in which the world’s legions of slighted artists have been only too happy to take refuge. The aphorism, it seems to me, has one basic defect: it rather overlooks how few statues there are to composers, authors, and painters, at least when compared to kings, generals, and prime ministers: you wouldn’t, in other circumstances, find the artsy crowd so eager to endorse the values of public statuary. Besides, by no means all critics want for honors. Brooks Atkinson and Walter Kerr, both of The New York Times, have Broadway theaters named after them; their predecessor, Alexander Woollcott, is memorialized in a cocktail, the Brandy Alexander. It’s a passably diverting game to divide their successors into those whose immortality would be more aptly conferred by the theater’s marquee or by its bar. It’s hard to...


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