“…If poetry is knowledge, it is a forbidden one. These are not the kind of thoughts Mommy and Daddy are thinking as they sit in the parlor. The clearheaded are lonely. As for torments of self-doubt, could there be Art without it? Well, yes, surely, but not the kind that would have any meaning to Emily Dickinson and Louise Glück.”
The above passage is from Charles Simic’s review of Glück’s latest book, Averno— which, if you happen to have been reading my blog around the time of its release, you’ll remember I went on about quite a bit—published in the 6/22 issue of The New York Review of Books. It’s a very, very fine review, really Simic’s take on Glück’s whole career. He likes the early books and, of course, The Wild Iris, and, rightly, has some reservations about the books between that book and the new one. But he portrays Glück as nothing less than the very great and utterly powerful writer that she is.
As taken as I always am with Glück, I’m also very moved by Simic’s clarity and emotion as a critical writer. I wish I wish I could write lovely sentences like those quoted above, which not only say something deft and moving about the work, but, at the same time, leaping off the work, about what it is like to be human. Criticism should justify itself beyond its function as a window into particular works of literature by being compelling literature in it’s own right. That’s not a new idea, I know, but reading this wonderful essay on a writer I love by a writer who has also been very important to me—seeing what a good critic Simic can be—reminds me what good criticism can do.