Should authors criticize each other?

Charles Dickens would / did. Effortlessly, with much dignity.

Mark Twain would / did. Though most recipients would remain hopelessly flattered.

Contemporary mass-market scribblers? Who cares? And I don't mean, "fuck 'em all," although.., I mean it literally, who does care? The banality of cop/ lawyer/FBI-agent/Seal-team member/ chick lit, uber-sensitive, young professional struggling in an, oh so nasty, feet-stamping, confusing, latte-driven world/ sword-swiping, dragon-scalding mystical wonderland/ werewolf-vampire-zombie-laden netherworld writing is perfectly contrived for a perfectly dumbed-down audience. Wal-Mart shoppers! Clean up on aisle five.

The low barrier to entry for publishing or songwriting has been blamed, but I don't buy it - good is good, no matter how low the production value or brief the passage. Think, Sgt Pepper recorded on a 4-track; or the supremely crafted 272 words of the Gettysburg address.  The issue is, and always will be, the mob rules. So when mediocre authors are rewarded for mediocrity, well.., you get it. So where's the sportsmanship in a spicy critique? How's a finely crafted bon mot going to spur good writing into a great work? I ask because I'd like to think we haven't become too brittle to stand before our peers with some sense of humility. 

And then, of course, we earn the right to tell them all to fuck off.


Mark Warford