Letter: Critics cannot stifle talent

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The Independent Online
From Ms Amanda Craig

Sir: Malcolm Bradbury's description ("Another View", 22 March) of the sufferings of novelists at the hands of critics does not tell the whole story. Corruption and self-promotion are indeed rife on too many literary pages, but numerous critics still walk an uncomfortable tightrope between giving an honest opinion about the merit and pleasure of work, and giving pain to its author. As many a furious book-buyer knows, the tendency is towards over-generosity.

Good books may not always be showered with prizes or instant praise, but they have a life of their own. Authors with talent or concern for their craft get better - sometimes as a result of criticisms, more often not. No amount of stupidity, malice or personal abuse can really, as Bradbury claims, drive them into silence or suicide.

Any author, as Dr Johnson said, "solicits fame at the hazard of disgrace". Critics may be predatory or parasites, but writing is a quasi-Darwinian struggle in which only the best-adapted survive.

Yours sincerely,


London, NW5

22 March