Criticism & Features

NBCC Reads

Tom Stoppard on Literary Criticism


Tom Stoppard's dying literary critic, Vissarion Belinsky, has this to say about his–and our–chosen calling, in “Shipwreck,” Part II of “The Coast of Utopia” trilogy:

“I fell in love with literature and stayed lovesick all my life. No woman had a more fervent or steadfast adorer. I picked up every handkerchief she let fall, lace, linen, snot rag, it made no difference. Every writer dead or alive was writing for me personally, to transport me, insult me, make me shout for joy or tear my hair out, and I wasn't fooled often.”

That's a loftier view of the profession than that of his philosopher Nicholas Stankevich, who in Part I, “Voyage,” calls literary criticism “a job for people whose second book didn't come up to expectations.”

-Heller McAlpin, NBCC member and current board candidate