In an interview with A. L. Kennedy in the NYT (13 Mar 13), John Williams asks: “Have you ever learned anything specific about your craft from reading a critic’s reaction to your work?” She replies: “From a professional critic, no. I’ve never expected to. In the U.K., the critical culture can be fairly moribund and dominated by an oddly ill-informed set of academic assumptions. There’s less and less space or money for serious criticism. From critics — which is to say, people who look closely at my work and are true and wide-ranging readers — yes, I have. But paying too much attention to external opinion — fashions, theories, trends, friends — puts you a couple of years behind your own timeline, because critics only ever follow. That whole scene can take you away from your center and your voice, while making you self-conscious. It’s a toxic combination. And an adult writer can’t always be expecting this little fantasy undergraduate workshop to tell them what to think. If you’re the author, it’s your decision to find out what you think and what you want to say and then get on with it. If it were a group effort, your name wouldn’t be the only one on the title.” (italics mine)
In the penultimate sentence I would replace “decision” with “responsibility”. Otherwise, there’s so much to love here, especially as I’m in the mad race to catch all the strands I’m weaving and tie them up (and decide which to leave mysteriously floating).
And that brings me to another delicious quote from Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes that describes so well my current state: “…balancing a big cardhouse of ideas on a single fingertip,… and…carefully connecting all the cards using tiny crystalline bones and a little spit, and if [I] can just get it all to the table without it falling down or flying apart, [I] can bring an image from the unseen world into being.”
PS: I am adding this a day later, after enjoying myself immensely reading these. A L Kennedy reacts to some of the very odd things critics say in their reviews (she’s a standup comic–oh, yes). Enjoy!