Mark Athitakis has a nice response to the Charles Baxter essay I posted last week here.
I agree that Baxter privileges certain aspects of fiction–we saw this happen a bit when we discussed my review of Cookbook Collector where I write the book is more a novel of ideas than a novel of characters–a point I wrote intended to be neutral, but some of you assumed it was a critique of the book. I don’t privilege strong characters (or, as Baxter does, formal properties). Others do.
For a critic, then, it is important to be aware of one’s prejudices, one’s owls, as it were. You can be explicit or implicit about them. But critics should not negatively evaluate critics who have a different owls than theirs without being self-reflective upon one’s own owls.
Also, you shouldn’t, probably, write paragraphs like the one above. The writing is not that clear. And clarity is one of my owls. But so are ideas. So I hope that you get my idea.