12 December 2010
A Critical Stage in a Writer's Growth
Whatever there is of good in what we write depends in some degree - at least if the fount is not one day to dry up completely - upon the patience, the indulgence, the hospitality of the reader. And in gaining access to that sometimes retiring, unobtrusive good, the "critical faculty," as we conventionally understand it, may show all the subtlety of a sledgehammer in detecting the unsuspected chords of a piano. The problem with the best in what we write is that it is often the shyest part of our repertoire. Shy creations, no less than shy creatures, require more than the glowering looks of the harsh critic for the discovery of their strengths. They require the sort of critic who, in judging any author, sees, yes, and does not spare, all the pride and pompousness, all the preening and pretension, of the warden - but also sees beyond them, to the dreams, the hopes, the longing, of the prisoner inside.