Frances Wilson lives in London and writes for the TLS and the New York Review of Books. The author of six biographies including Guilty Thing: A life of Thomas De Quincey and Burning Man: The ascent of D.H. Lawrence, she is currently working on a life of young Muriel Spark.
When did you first write for ABR?
I was invited onto the ABR Podcast last summer and subsequently asked by Peter Rose to review Dream-Child, a new biography of Charles Lamb.
What makes a fine critic?
A distinction needs to made between the critic and the book reviewer, because not all reviewers are critics. The reviews that run in the literary pages of newspapers – plot synopsis followed by puffery or condemnation – bear little relation to criticism, not least because critics read closely while reviewers tend to speed-read. Criticism is an art, and the finest criticism should be equal to its subject: a good critic should have a distinctive voice, a good ear, and a strong style. I like audacity and eccentricity in criticism, and I particularly admire those critics who are alert not only to the words on the page but to the ‘unconscious’ of the text – what is elided, repressed or not quite expressed in the writing.