Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Review of the reviewers

Critics constantly complain that writers are lacking in standards, yet they themselves seem to have no standards other than personal prejudice for literary criticism. (...) such standards do exist.
Matthew Arnold set up three criteria for criticism:
1. What is the writer trying to do?
2. How well does he succeed in doing it? (...)
3. Does the work exhibit "high seriousness"?
That is, does it touch on basic issues of good and evil, life and death and the human condition. I would also apply a fourth criterion (...)
Write about what you know. More writers fail because they try to write about things they don't know than for any other reason.

— William S. Burroughs, 'A Review of the Reviewers'

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