Critics vs. Readers


Critics don’t seem to like Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch, but that hasn’t stopped readers from buying more than a million copies of the novel. Vanity Fair poses the question: but is it art? The New Republic suggests this kind of criticism is infantile. Meanwhile, Flavorwire’s Jason Diamond thinks a bigger problem is the disconnect between critics and readers:

I get that some critics don’t love The Goldfinch. Yet the fact that this one book’s popularity among readers can cause so much controversy exposes not just how little the public pays attention to what we perceive to be “highbrow” literary criticism, but also that American literature is in a really awkward place in which the reputation of a popular, Pulitzer-winning novel is at stake simply because a few critics at a handful of highbrow publications didn’t like it. If this conversation represents where we’re at, what we read, what we like, and who should help guide us toward new titles, then something is seriously amiss.

Ian MacAllen is the author of Red Sauce: How Italian Food Became American (Rowman & Littlefield, April 2022). His writing has appeared in Chicago Review of Books, Southern Review of Books, The Offing, 45th Parallel Magazine, Little Fiction, Vol 1. Brooklyn, and elsewhere. He tweets @IanMacAllen and is online at More from this author →