But criticism, for the most part, comes from the opposite place that book-enjoying should come from. To enjoy art one needs time, patience, and a generous heart, and criticism is done, by and large, by impatient people who have axes to grind. The worst sort of critics are (analogy coming) butterfly collectors—they chase something, ostensibly out of their search for beauty, then, once they get close, they catch that beautiful something, they kill it, they stick a pin through its abdomen, dissect it and label it. The whole process, I find, is not a happy or healthy one. Someone with his or her own shit figured out, without any emotional problems or bitterness or envy, instead of killing that which he loves, will simply let the goddamn butterfly fly, and instead of capturing and killing it and sticking it in a box, will simply point to it—”Hey everyone, look at that beautiful thing”—hoping everyone else will see the beautiful thing he has seen. Just as no one wants to grow up to be an IRS agent, no one should want to grow up to maliciously dissect books.
Another quote from the same magisterial Dave Eggers email I quoted earlier today.
The bold section is the exact reason—indeed, the exact metaphor—why, when I reached senior year of college, I decided against graduate school. I got sick of tearing beauty to pieces.
A facilitating factor was the story of an undergrad friend of mine, who described how a grad student in one of his higher-level history classes repeatedly challenged him to disclose a source for his original thoughts. The grad student refused to believe that my friend’s conclusions could have arisen de novo, even if inspired—as many thoughts are during free and open classroom discourse, to say nothing of the terminally footnoted world of academia—by a student’s attentive and small-cee catholic literary grazing.
Dante surely would have had a special duty in Hell for such grad students. Perhaps watching their final projects be continuously revised by a million dyspeptic, non-subject-matter-expert Wikipedians with no ability to “undo.” Yeah.