What happened is this: I wrote a book (The Fortress of Solitude) and James Wood reviewed it. What happened next: I wrote James Wood a long, intemperate letter. (Not an open letter.) And he wrote a curt postcard in reply. Eight years later, I haven’t quit thinking about it. Why? The review, though bearing a few darts (“Depthless Brooklyn,” “squandered,” “before our disappointed eyes”), wasn’t the worst I’d had. Wasn’t horrible. (As my uncle Fred would have said, “I know from horrible.”) Why, I hear you moan in your sheets, why in the thick of this Ecstasy Party you’ve thrown for yourself, violate every contract of dignity and decency, why embarrass us and yourself, sulking over an eight-year-old mixed review? Conversely, why not, if I’d wished to flog Wood’s shortcomings, pick a review of someone else, make respectable defense of a fallen comrade? The answer is simple: In no other instance could I grasp so completely what Wood was doing.
read more | Jonathan Lethem, My Disappointment Critic | The LA Review of Books