- The Washington Times - Monday, January 8, 2007

There’s a funny scene in Michael Winterbottom’s “Tristam Shandy” where Tristam’s father reads from “book of knowledge” as Tristam lies in bed, bored, it appears, literally to tears.

I’m determined never to turn into that kind of father.

And, much as I admire him, I think New York Times critic A.O. Scott is lurching in that direction by trying to instill in his children a love of movies as deep and nuanced as his. (David Denby’s gloomy, God’s-eye-view analysis of the movie industry is enough to worry any purist about the future of the traditional moviegoing experience.)

There’s something deeply unsettling to me about parents acting as cultural gurus to their children. Where do you draw the line between passing on worthy values to your children and becoming, you now, a Stalinizing aesthete?

I suppose the reason I’m so allergic to the Scott approach is that, unlike him (I’m guessing) I have zero confidence that I’ve made the right choices in my own life (other than never having committed a felony, etc.) or that my so-called passions (guitars, books, movies and the like) are indeed the stuff of a happy life and a gratifying career. What am I doing now that precluded the possibility of, say, becoming a doctor? I mean, I play guitar better than Bill Clinton plays saxophone, but, uh, I forgot to become a Rhodes Scholar and president while I was at it.

Of course I’ll encourage my kids to do well in school. But drag them to art-house movies on a Saturday afternoon? Don’t think so.

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