Saturday, May 31, 2008
Flatt, Molly. "Criticism's Vocabulary of Cruelty." GUARDIAN BOOKS BLOG May 19, 2008.
Literary criticism is famously red in tooth and claw. Terry Eagleton, Mary McCarthy and Dale Peck are just a few reviewers who have made their names with funny and often frankly showy cruelty. With the book market more crowded than ever before, a bracing and briny critique can be just the thing to cut through the prettily packaged chaff. As Eaves pointed out, critics are brokers, advising readers where to invest their time and money with a duty to the often less-than-lenient truth - an image that is especially appealing to bloggers, avowedly fearless mouthpieces for the common man. Moreover, in his article this week on the notoriously prickly VS Naipaul's new work of criticism, A Writer's People, Radhakrishan Nayar reminds us that a clever tongue-lash can be a defining symptom of uncompromising and idiosyncratic literary brilliance. "Great writers can be impatient, quirky, rudely iconoclastic literary critics," he says. "It is almost a professional deformity. They achieve greatness through a stern commitment to sharply individual visions of the world." . . . The likes of Eagleton and Naipaul may well be motivated by their "stern commitment" to truth. But in a society that relishes sensationalism, flippancy and, most of all, the vicious culling of tall poppies, I suspect that our funny negatives are too often motivated by laziness, egotism and commercial appeal. . . . Read the rest here: http://blogs.guardian.co.uk/books/2008/05/review.html.