Criticism is a strange way of living your life: cast always in the act of responding. In We The Parasites, A.V. Marraccini offers us the critic-as-parasite, a metaphor which becomes the generative starting point for an essay that encounters (among others) Homer, John Updike, Cy Twombly…
Marraccini gives centre stage to the anxieties and yearnings that lead you to a piece of art in the first place. She skilfully weaves the pandemic-moments of writing the book and wandering lockdown with art, with autobiographical reflections both on love and learning, with extracts from other voices, snippets of Rilke, until the question becomes less where is the line? and more why did I ever imagine there should be a line between any of this? Yes, you think, this is the frantic, fractured, consuming mess that work of criticism comes from. This is what it means to respond, to desire to possess, to be afraid you will never succeed.
I was going to say it soared but that would be wrong. It delves. We don’t come away with a taut, tweetable jewel about what criticism means, but a squirming uncertainty: this is work on the level of wasps, fish, ticks. (You will gain a whole appreciation for the ingenuity of parasites.) ‘It turns out books are fickle too, that the insidious truth of art can also be a lie’, Marraccini writes. But what a lie.
Words: Alice Wickenden
We the Parasites