Scorched Earth and the Folly of the Critic

Linda Caroll
Apr 24, 2019 · 2 min read

“The plot line is weak and the characters undeveloped. I can’t really dignify the contents of this droll tome with the ascription of ‘book’ nor the contents as ‘writing’…”

So blasts the critic as though it’s not as subjective as two children debating tiger tiger versus bubble gum flavored ice cream.

Did you mention the hanging participle the editor missed on page 73? Or the one time the author flipped from first person to third and back again without missing a heartbeat and the editor, engrossed in the story, missed it, too?

Of course not. Because firstly, you likely lack the literary language that would allow you to recognize those in the first place.

But, no. I know. You’re not an editor.

You’re a critic, and scorched earth is part of the territory. Of course, the more honest truth is that there’s no task a critic is more responsible to uphold at all cost more than the ritual feeding of ego. I think, therefore I am right.

This is almost always a problem for people camped on the side of kindness. Mean, shouty people throwing insults as explosives in a bid for superiority and self esteem.

This is how the world ends. This is how the world ends.
This is how the world ends. Not with a bang but a whimper.

Harper Lee’s “To Kill A Mockingbird” was slaughtered by the critics before it became one of the best selling novels of all time. Likewise, Hemingway, Kerouac, Rowling and the list of debased authors bleeds into eternity.

and many an author is tossed into the abyss of writer’s block because of that derisive anger rather than aided by it in some small or helpful way.

There’s a scene in an old Indiana Jones film where Indy pulls a gun and shoots a man wielding a knife.

Don’t bring a knife to a gun fight, he says.

Then he shrugs and walks away. There’s a lesson for the critic in that scene, I think. You think you are the one with the gun.

But we see you. We of the camp of kindness. See through you like the ghosts that haunt you. Such is the folly of the critic. Put down the knife, friend.

A shame, really, that you don’t use all that energy to write a book of your own. If you did, on the very last page, when you’d bled out all there was to bleed, I reckon you’d find something strange and completely new to you.


Come. There’s an empty tent next to mine.
Would you like a cappuccino?

Write Before Lunch

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Linda Caroll

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20 years in design and marketing. Get writing and marketing tips on Fridays at

Write Before Lunch

Writing about writing

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