And this is one of the strange things about life as a junior book critic (I was more than 30, but I was definitely a junior): you spend all your life reading, but you can never take part in a conversation about books with your friends. They want to talk about the new Julian Barnes, Ian McEwan or Margaret Atwood; you haven’t got round to any of them, because nobody gives you the big books to review, and you’ve been ploughing through a 500-page first novel that shows only intermittent promise and that your friends will never embark upon, partly because you are about to tell them, in print, not to bother.

There were other reasons for stopping, too. It is uncomfortable being introduced to a writer whose work you have publicly slated, and when you are writing books of your own, that is more likely to happen, at literary festivals and parties and in BBC corridors. And in any case, writing books of your own exposes an uncomfortable truth: that even though you spend half your working life telling people how it should be done, you can’t do it yourself — or it’s not as easy as it looked, anyway.

— Nick Hornby, in The Sunday Times, on working as a junior book critic in the early ’90s and his book column for The Believer.

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