New York Times: Should Critics Aim to Be Open-Minded?

In the Bookends column of the New York Times Book Review, writers Thomas Mallon and Liesl Schillinger take on the effects of criticism. Schillinger points to some observations on the topic made by Anthony Trollope:

In his 1875 novel The Way We Live Now, one of my favorite authors, Anthony Trollope (several generations older than Maugham and infinitely more indulgent of his fellow man), pointed out the hazard of a charitable critical approach: “Eulogy is invariably dull.’ There’s a distinct line between eulogy and fairness, but every critic knows you make more of a splash when you wield a bludgeon than when you bestow a bouquet.

Yet Trollope also recognized that brickbats too readily brandished lose their power to stun. If you’re a writer known for dispensing venom, he explained, your targets grow immune to your poison: ‘Censure from those who are always finding fault is regarded so much as a matter of course that it ceases to be objectionable,’ making the dependably whip-cracking critic a ‘caricaturist.’ Whereas an open-minded critic makes an enemy every time he or she lays down a harsh verdict: ‘Abuse from those who occasionally praise is considered to be personally offensive.’

(Read the full article.)

Posted on: September 1st, 2017 by Douglas Gerlach

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