The author on writing nonfiction and fiction, and the current state of criticism:

“BLVR: There has been a lot of talk recently about the rules of criticism. When is it too mean? When is it too nice? The internet makes it so that you’re very much aware of the human you’re writing about—you don’t want to see them in pain. It’s good for the critic’s psychology, but maybe not so great for criticism.

“RA: Well, it used to be one way a young writer made it in New York. He would attack, in a small obscure publication, someone very strong, highly regarded, whom a few people may already have hated. Then the young writer might gain a small following. When he looked for a job, an assignment, and an editor asked, ‘What have you published?’ he could reply, ‘Well, this piece.’ The editor might say, ‘Oh, yeah, that was met with a lot of consternation.’ And a portfolio began. This isn’t the way it goes now. More like a race to join the herd of received ideas and agreement.”