"Our high respect for a well-read man
is praise enough of literature."
A critic who tries to stay abreast of the literature of his time, in any time, deserves respect as well as sympathy from less heroic readers content to pick and choose from among the deluge of titles that sends one literary year after the next spinning away down the ceaseless cascading indiscriminate flood. "I read all the time, then," George Garrett says of himself as a boy,
and I still do. And after I became a teacher and then later a certified (by finally being published) writer, I did not put away childish things, but just added to them. I have for thirty-some years judged countless contests and grant applications and prizes. And I have edited poetry and fiction, too, for various magazines and presses. And I have reviewed books all the time, individually and in clusters for chronicle reviews and in mountainous caches, over the last few years, for the annual "Year in Fiction" essay for the Dictionary of Literary Biography Yearbook where in ten or twelve thousand words I try to do my best to report on a calendar year's worth of American fiction. At this time I am still doing at least some of all of it, and I think it would be perfectly safe to say that I read more fiction, at all stages of its development, than anybody else in...