There was a time when I actually believed, because I was an ass, that as a critic I was an avenging angel with a flaming sword, and that part of my job was to help rid the culture of books that were sucking up more of the literary oxygen than they deserved. So if I read a book and hated it, I said so.
Then I grew up. Don’t get me wrong: I am as bad-tempered a reader as you’ll ever see, and I’m a great hater of bad books, and possibly even of good ones. I enjoy a well-reasoned rubbishing as much as the next reader. […]
I think pieces like that do something important. They open up space in the culture where we can actually talk honestly about writers whose work is in danger of becoming sacred and critically unassailable. Books that aren’t actually scripture shouldn’t be treated like they’re sacred. If anything, doing away with that kind of blind worship is one of those things novels are so useful for. To turn around and worship novels, or novelists (or critics), that’s just ironic.