Not a Hatchet but a Scalpel
Leah Jing McIntosh • 1 July 2022
Sometimes it feels like we’re trapped in an unending yet terribly boring conversation about literary criticism: it’s too soft. The industry is too small. It’s all publicity, all puff. There’s no backbone, no guts. The enduring racism and or misogyny of the institution bleeds through. Nothing ever changes. When a writer does rip something apart, it’s often another kind of unbearable. An arrogance that reveals its ragged limits in mounting references to The Canon. Look, it’s not that these conversations are wrong. It’s more that they’re right. It’s just that they’re endless. It’s just that I’m bored. Shove me into The Canon and set it alight.
I return to Maria Tumarkin on Michael Hofmann every so often, so I thought I’d curate a few pieces with a similar texture. Tumarkin writes that Hofmann treats reviewing 'as unrepeatable, "hot", improvisational, dangerous'. Not a hatchet but a scalpel. Something to slice right through. A writer taking time to slowly pull apart a book, to think through or alongside another mind. Sentences that bear the trace of sustained thought. Careful, precise. Hot and dangerous.
Leah Jing McIntosh is an essayist, critic, and the founding editor of Liminal.