The reason I read certain blogs is for the daily hit of irritalin they provide me, especially the Old Boys’ Blogs whose denizens are often knowing to the point of arrogance. It’s useful – and provocative – to be reminded of what I don’t want to do, what blogging need not be. Literary criticism is by its very nature judgemental, but the longer I blog, the less certain I feel. Perhaps this is why I’m blogging less and less.
For (strange as it may sound to many people, who tend to think of critics as being motivated by the lower emotions: envy, disdain, contempt even) critics are, above all, people who are in love with beautiful things, and who worry that those things will get broken. What motivates so many of us to write in the first place is, to begin with, a great passion for a subject (Tennessee Williams, Balanchine, jazz, the twentieth-century novel, whatever) that we find beautiful; and then a kind of corresponding anxiety about the fragility of that beauty.
(Daniel Mendelsohn, How Beautiful It Is And How Easily It Can Be Broken)
Mendelsohn is undoubtedly right, but of course ‘what we find beautiful’ is indeed subjective, and all too often those who are knowledgeable – and articulate – could do with a salutary measure of humility. Fiction is a search, not an answer – at least serious fiction.
I particularly appreciate a blogger like critic and retired professor Charles May in this regard, whose passion for literature is evident but never complacent. It’s a pleasure to exchange ideas with him, for there is always a sense of exploration, joint pursuit, essai.