“Happiness,” the French novelist Henry de Montherlant observed, “writes in white ink on a white page.” No one wants to read about contented people leading untroubled lives. Characters in novels must want something if they are to hold our interest, and they mustn’t get it without a fight. Contentment, in fiction, is almost always boring. But does this law extend beyond fiction itself? Does it encompass not just the fates of characters but those of books themselves? Is it possible, in other words, for a critic to say nice things in ways that don’t make you want to gnaw through your own wrists?
Paraic O’Donnell via Irish Times