Summary of Paul Fussell’s ‘A Power of Facing Unpleasant Facts’, an essay apparently unavailable on the internets:

Wise advice on how to take criticism.

He quotes Samuel Johnson (112):

An author places himself uncalled before the tribunal of criticism, and solicits fame at the hazard of disgrace.

E.M. Forster (113):

Some reviews give pain. This is regrettable, but no author has the right to whine. He was not obliged to be an author. He invited publicity, and he must take the publicity that comes along.

Edna St. Vincent Millay (113):

A person who publishes a book willfully appears before the populace with his pants down . . . . If it is a good book, nothing can hurt him. If it is a bad book, nothing can help him.

John Keats (113):

Praise or blame has but a momentary effect on the man whose love of beauty in the abstract makes him a severe critic of his own works.


Fussell’s taxonomy of authors’ wounded responses to criticism.
(Illustrated by amusing quotations from authors’ angry letters sent overhastily to the editors of major literary review magazines.)

1) Assert your confusion, because so many “honest” readers have loved your work.

2) Embrace the loser’s precept: if others won’t praise you, praise yourself.

3) Expose the hidden, discreditable motive the reviewer has for panning your work (e.g., your work has been more favorably received than the reviewer’s).

4) Melodramatically portray a negative review as revenge settling old scores (e.g., for a negative review in the other direction).

5) Attribute a negative review to commercial jealousy (note archly that the reviewer has a competing work in the bookstores).

6) Assert that the reviewer has “not understood” your work (but as Fussell points out, this is a double-edged sword, because a lack of clarity is presumably your fault).

7) Point out in excruciating detail how the reviewer is wrong (offer to send a brief to anyone writing to ask for it).

8) Exhibit pure self-pity. (“Sir–Your cruel review of my _______ reduced me to tears, of course, as its author doubtless intended . . . .”)

Which brings us, naturally, to The Learned Load, who appears determined to stamp! stamp! stamp! his little feet in public until he gets some good reviews. Today, he’s rilly rilly toally toally mad at Keith Olbermann for noting his groundbreaking and thoughtful comparison of Barack Obama and FDR to Adolf Hitler:

Keith Olbermann is, of course, not really worth taking seriously. But you’ve got to love the staggering ignorance behind his continued insistence that fascists weren’t socialists because they beat other socialists to death. Golly. How many socialists did Stalin kill? Pretty much all of the show trial victims weren’t mere socialists but hardcore Communists. I guess Stalin was anti-Communist. Hitler’s Night of the Long Knives involved the slaughter of Nazis, so I guess by Olbermann’s logic Hitler was anti-Nazi. Most lefties can’t stand Joe Lieberman, I guess they’re anti-Democrat.

Mr. Buckley, this is your legacy.

fussell-1982.pdf , courtesy of J-.