Last September, the novelist John Reed hosted "Revise & Recant," a National Book Critics Circle event, where guilt-laden book reviewers took center stage to retract unfair or unnecessarily harsh critiques they'd written in the past. One by one, the repentant pundits carved out a space for themselves within that quintessentially American tradition of public atonement, ushering in a new genre of sorts -- the literary apology. (Surprisingly, no major media outlets covered the gathering, except for the Wall Street Journal in an aptly titled story, "Regrets, Even Critics Have a Few.")
Reed, the 43-year-old son of renowned New York City artists David Reed and Judy Rifka, grew up among tall ceilings and long windows in the spacious lofts of 1970s TriBeCa, then a shabby bohemia burning with creativity. Those early years informed the liberalism and inventiveness in his four novels (A Still Small Voice, Snowball's Chance, The Whole, All the World's A Grave) and short story collection (Tales of Woe) -- as well as his expert rabble-rousing.
The provocateur invited The Slant to one of his old haunts in TriBeCa, Nha Trang, a Vietnamese eatery. Over oysters, he hammered home the First Commandment of literary criticism: Thou shall not review work thou hast not read. He also shared what inspired "Revise & Recant," who showed up to confess cruel critiques and how criticism often misses the mark:
Read the Q&A at The Slant: There's Always More to the Story