Works of art are of an infinite loneliness and with nothing so little to be reached as with criticism. Only love can grasp and hold and be just toward them.
If a poem or a painting resembles a joke in that you get it or you don’t, then explanation ought to be the last resort of criticism, because it can occur only when the poem/joke is deprived of its best effect, and only as a cause of that deprivation. Explanation identifies the conditions which, had they held in one prior to the joke, would have allowed one to enjoy it. Explanation replaces laughter. I prefer instead a criticism that seeks to be the barroom and the second gin and tonic that help create the mood of attunement in which the stand-up comic’s lines provoke a good laugh.
—H. L. Hix