You Can’t Be a Good Literary Critic Unless You…

…have moved furniture.

…whistle a happy (or sad!) tune.

…understand what it is to be poor.

…understand what it is to be rich.

…love some kind of animal. In my world, dogs more than cats, but there’s no hard and fast rule.

…have a vice. Several, in fact.

…admit you’re wrong, know you will probably be wrong, accept that you’re wrong.

…have a loving relationship with a human other than yourself. Actually, make sure you love and (especially!) respect yourself, first, because otherwise you’re hardly in a position to love and respect anyone else, are you.

…cast off any lingering or slow-building bitterness. It shows, and it sucks.

…accept your words and judgment come with responsibility but that responsibility doesn’t mean being timid or pulling your punches.

…have a passport.

…read widely. Sure, you can review within a narrow range of books, but those narrow range of books need context, from highbrow to gleeful trash to everything in between.

…write something other than book reviews or criticism. Otherwise you’ll get stale and bored.

…still have your inner six-year-old.

…accept that lists like this are a crock of bullshit.

…laugh at stupid jokes and cry when shit upsets you. Otherwise known as, if you have emotions, feel ‘em.

…understand your being a literary critic has a (very short) time window. And that the very idea of making a living at this will cause heaps of laughter, mostly within your own head.

…take a fucking risk every now and then.

…live. Because let’s face it, being a good literary critic involves the same thing as being a good, well, anything. And if you don’t live, what the hell is the point?


  1. Great post. I esp. agree with the loving yourself part. Too many people, esp. young girls these days, are waiting for Mr. Right to make them happy, never realizing Mr. Right wants a woman/girl who’s already happy.

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