David Ulin has a great piece in the Los Angeles Times, where he’s the Book Critic, on the role of critics, both literally and emotionally:
A week or two ago, I was asked if the fact that I now write books had made me a kinder critic, which is a notion I reject. Yes, the act of writing books has taught me just how hard it is to write even a bad book, but this doesn’t mean bad books are anything to which we should aspire.
Rather, the fact that we respect the intention, the day-in, day-out labor of it, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t critique the work. As Mendelsohn points out (and I agree with him), “The best advice I ever got, right before the publication of my first book, was from a publishing mentor who told me, ‘The only thing worse than a stupid bad review is a stupid good review.’ And he was right.”