Michael Lapointe at the TLS:
We’re often told that today’s North American critics are missing something vital. But what? Ever self-reliant, American critics often identify the missing element as a certain intensity, as though the questing knight has grown flabby and a little domestic. In American Audacity: In defense of literary daring, an impressive new collection of essays, the Boston-based critic and novelist William Giraldi sounds the alarm. “The danger is real now”, he writes, “godlike and unprecedented, all- powerful and everywhere. The Internet has zapped us all into obliging zombies; it makes yesterday’s threat from television look whimsical and rather cute.” Against these stupefying forces, Giraldi calls for the critic to return to fundamentals. “The critic’s chief loyalty is to the duet of beauty and wisdom”, he writes, “to the well-made and usefully wise, and to the ligatures between style and meaning.” Giraldi is the sort of critic – often the most helpful when one is choosing what to read – who insists on the paramount importance of a work’s aesthetic features. He is hostile to those who would perceive literature through a political or theoretical lens. “Ideology is the enemy of art because ideology is the end of imagination”, he avers.