Tin House’s recent interview with novelist Walter Kirn has given me a new purpose in my writing about books. There is so much good stuff in here:
I can’t honestly say that I’ve ever written criticism. I’ve written book reviews, for money, in the sorts of magazines and newspapers that used to run such reviews regularly but seem to be giving up on them. I had no special training for the job other than being a reader who tends to scribble in the margins as he reads. I saw my job as harmonizing these scribblings and making them available to the public. I was aware the whole time that most of the readers of my reviews would never even open the books in questions, which obliged me to make my reviews absorbing and diverting in themselves. My overall goal was to convey the impression that literature is a vital undertaking, worthy of the most passionate responses. I wanted, very simply, to create excitement around an enterprise that too often comes off as stiff, remote, and sleepy. My reviews were chronicles of taste, and my hope was that they invited readers to test and scrutinize their own tastes. Maybe that sounds like a modest motivation. I don’t think so. Literature to me is a matter of life and death, and that’s how I tried to write about it, as though it mattered at least as much as electoral politics, say.
(h/t The Dish)