in Spite of Himself
. . . a great deal of the best and most
sensible criticism of any age is necessarily
RANDALL JARRELL HAS had the last word on criticism. No one can improve on his blissful condemnation of the modern critic and the special languages and vested interests of criticism. No one has tried harder to curb some of the critic's wasteful activity. But whether he has done any good is hard to say; Jarrell is himself such a fine critic (at least when I can agree with him) that he may father a whole new family of critical minds. If he does, and if they are truly writers and not just "machines of sensibility," we may be able to see an end to the age of criticism, as he calls it. This is not very likely. We are indeed in the age of criticism and one can hardly put an end to the criticism without putting an end to the age.
I am one of that innumerable tribe of poets who was drawn into criticism at that tender age when one has published his first poems in a respectable place. I now look back on my initiation into criticism as something of a tribal investiture, for it was this ceremony that turned my hand to prose. As a writer of prose I eventually became an editor, which is to say a big