George Scialabba has an assessment of Edmund Wilson, whose essays and criticism are now available in a twovolume Library of America set, up at the Nation’s Web site. Wilson’s statement about the critic’s responsibilities is at once simple as a pile of rocks and intimidating as Everest:

A reviewer should be more or less familiar, or be ready to familiarize himself, with the past work of every important writer he deals with and be able to write about an author’s new book in the light of his general development and intention. He should also be able to see the author in relation to the national literature as a whole and the national literature in relation to other literatures.

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