Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Should authors be critics, too?

"Interesting piece on Salon (from last month - I've only just noticed on account of being on holiday. So this is really for those of you who missed it because you were on holiday, too) on whether novelists ought to double as literary critics or not. It's a well-worn argument, frustratingly circular argument, which goes something like this:

1) Novelists are well-qualified for the job of reviewing, just as scientists are well-qualified to peer review the work of their colleagues.
2) But can we expect an unbiased reaction from people fighting for space in the same (rapidly narrowing) field? You don't, after all, get directors reviewing other directors' plays.
3) Would it not be better to employ dedicated book critics, at one remove from the publishing world?
4) Yes, probably. But the difference is that, in literature, the skills involved in creating and critiquing are the same. Furthermore, with book sections closing on both sides of the Atlantic, who can afford to employ a full-time book critic these days? And who could afford to live as one?
5) In that case, are we not better off asking novelists - who are, after all, well-qualified - to review novels?
6) Repeat, inconclusively."

Judge and jury

Should novelists double as book critics? Suddenly one prominent reviewer -- and author -- isn't so sure

"When a critic writes a novel, it's like one of those movies where the cop crosses the line and gets tossed in jail along with the people he put there," he said. "There's no question, writing fiction has changed the way I review."
"Being a novelist demands arrogance," he added. "To be a good critic, you have to be humble."

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