In Defense of Negativity

Have you heard about this new book by Jonathan Franzen? Well, what haven’t you heard? The New Republic’s estimable literary editor Leon Wieseltier defends his own magazine’s attack on Franzen’s newly released and largely beloved Freedom. A negative review is a necessary thing, Wieseltier writes. What is a “hatchet job?” It’s a defense of something important: “A book arrives that in the opinion of the reviewer outrages a principle of politics or philosophy or history or art, and will lead its readers into error or illusion, and will coarsen discourse or experience—for such are the stakes in books, the power of books, and the real nihilism is to deny it.”