After posting this afternoon on Jonathan Gold's Pulitzer win, I looked up who the other finalists were for the criticism prize. It turned out two critics from the LA Times were the other finalists: Christopher Knight (no, not Peter from "The Brady Bunch") for his art criticism and Mark Swed for his classical music reviews.
This marked one of the few years when I actually have regularly read all three finalists for a Pulitzer. I think Knight is a great reporter, and his reviews often feel more like reports rather than actual reviews. He's definitely not one to foist a strong opinion, which I prefer in the reviews I read. I want to hear a critic's opinion. The last review I read by Knight was his piece on Bruce Nauman's exhibit last month. It was a very informative review.
Swed's criticism has always interested me because I'm not that enamored with classical music. I read his reviews hoping to learn what is so great about classical music. Almost always I finish reading his review and I wish that I liked classical music. He does a great job making a concert come to life with vivid imagery and descriptions. Perhaps his reviews are too good because as much as they make me want to start listening to classical music, they also make me realize that I probably won't enjoy it as much as Swed's descriptions.
Of the three, though, I still would give the prize to Gold. His reviews teem with the joy inherent in eating. He's not simply about fine dining. Unlike the Times' S. Irene Virbila, whose reviews often drip with condescension, Gold is more interested in the pure enjoyment of eating, whether it be at a taco stand or a steakhouse. That is why he is arguably the most trusted critic in Los Angeles. More readers probably follow his recommendations than any other critic--of any kind--working here today.