More, not less, snark

The Walrus calls for more fearless book critics, like Dale Peck and James Wood:

What literature needs most is a new and abusive school of criticism. So wrote Rebecca West in 1914, in an essay called “The Duty of Harsh Criticism.” Book reviewers were too kind, she argued, and literary standards debased. English departments were remarkable only for the shocking amounts of unreadable writing they produced. Then there was the “formidable army of Englishmen” who had managed to become men of letters without having written anything: “They throw up platitudinous inaugural addresses like wormcasts, they edit the letters of the unprotected dead, and chew once more the more masticated portions of history.” There is now no criticism in England, she concluded. “There is merely a chorus of weak cheers . . . a mild kindliness that neither heats to enthusiasm nor reverses to anger.”

(Via the Rake, who’s interviewed here.)


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