Eunuchs at a Harem – in (belated) praise of literary critics


The critic is a curious pitiful beast, feared and reviled in equal measure. And yet in an age where the cries of “look at me” have become a cacophony, they are a necessary evil; a swift way of drawing attention to overlooked works or calling into question the overexposed. The critic’s relationship with the writer fluctuates between symbiotic and parasitic. At their best, which is usually their most scathing, they can be highly entertaining (rare is the example of the good review as art – George Orwell’s celebration of Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer – ‘Inside the Whale’ – being a notable exception). Schadenfreude is underrated. We can feign piousness and lament the damage they can do (Thomas Hardy, for one, never wrote another novel following the critical battering his magnificently bleak Jude the Obscure received). We can even question their motives and accuse them of jealousy and creative impotence but we’re still drawn to the most merciless reviews with the same morbid interest as driving slowly past a car crash…

Continued on 3:AM Magazine

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