The critic’s job

Except for all the male pronouns, Alfred Kazin’s credo remains good advice:

“A critic must reveal why we read him [a writer].  Everything else—the historical associations, the comparison with other writers, the placing in a school, the social, moral, and political significance thereof—all that comes later.  The first question a critic should ask himself is: in what does this man’s interest to us as a writer primarily consist?  Why do we read him and what do we read first?  The value of a critic can be defined by the extent to which he remembers that he is a reader and by his cleverness and passion in applying that remembrance to the service of his readers….  I go further: reading should be a sensual experience, and the critic is useful only in so far as he opens our senses to the work before us.”

—Alfred Kazin, Dec. 20, 1947, in Alfred Kazin’s Journals (Yale, 2011), p. 109.  Thanks for the gift, ¡Braulio!


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