10/19/2010 02:37 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Do Novels Need Likeable Characters?

Not only must we identify with characters, we must like them too. "I didn't like any of the characters" is a complaint made frequently, everywhere from televised book clubs to reviews on blogs and online bookstores. James Wood has referred to it as a "contagion of moralising niceness" and Laura Miller was moved to observe in a recent piece for Salon that she'd "grown to hate such remarks. It makes me feel like we're all back in grammar school, talking about which kids are 'nice' and which kids are 'mean'. It's a wilfully naive and blinkered way to approach a work of literature."

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