Literary critics and pride, part II

Yesterday I raised the issue of literary critics (especially those who also write fiction) and pride, in the process laying out  how the main ways that critics engage with works and authors sometimes (often?) do so out of pride. The subsequent discussion has been excellent, with several commenters offering some good solutions to the problem of injecting too much pride and even enmity in to ones criticism/reviews. As promised, I sketched out some prescriptions to the problem on the bus this morning and am now attempting to create some coherence out of them on my lunch break. Sorry they are so Beatitudenous: Continue reading “Literary critics and pride, part II”

Literary critics (who write fiction) and pride

Pride was the theme of my ward’s sacrament meeting last Sunday. As you might expect Pres. Ezra Taft Benson’s landmark talk on pride was quoted by all four speakers. The talks were quite good and there there was a nice flow to the meeting. In particular, the two adult speakers did a good job of referring to the previous speakers and adapting their talks to what was said before. As a result, the residual effects of the meeting have stuck with me and I have found myself thinking about literary critics/reviewers — especially those who write fiction themselves — and pride. (Or in other words, I’ve been thinking about myself.)

This line of thinking also comes out of some of the high profile author meltdowns of late (one of note is detailed at Gawker) over bad (or even simply mixed) reviews. Look. Writing fiction is a tough business. It’s a lonely often emotionally wrenching and exhausting enterprise; the sweat equity is rarely worth it; the criticism generally outweighs the acclaim and the acclaim is, in the end, fleeting and not very emotionally satisfying long term.  Which means that healthy egos and thin skins are not all that unusual. And the thing gets messier when fiction authors write criticism (or literary critics try their hand at fiction) because envy — the companion of pride — often comes in to play. And even if the critic/author isn’t reviewing out of a place of envy, that’s often what the perception is and when that is how the review/piece of criticism is responded to (and it’s remarkable how many ways writers can hint that a bad review is because its author is just jealous) then pride gets wounded on both sides and the rhetoric often escalates. Continue reading “Literary critics (who write fiction) and pride”