Check out Charles Taylor's excellent review of Howard Hampton's Born in Flames: Termite Dreams, Dialectical Fairy Tales, and Pop Apocalypses in the December 24 edition of the Los Angeles Times. The article serves not only as an introduction to the book, but also as a sort of primer on Hampton the critic, whose "blurring of form, genre, and high and low culture, by tossed-off puns and one-liners that shake the dust of reverence off revered subjects" signals a refusal to bow to traditional notions of what criticism is and how critics should function in our society:
So is it a matter of being aware of what gives you pleasure? "Pleasure has gotten bad connotations," he said, as if it were "something cheap and tawdry."
An aesthetic of pleasure runs through Hampton's writing. He derives the most joy from "things that operate on different levels, with depth and layers and unexpected pleasures. I like something where there's this overabundance, where all these contradictions boil and come to the surface."
The best criticism forms an unconscious self-portrait of the critic. When Howard Hampton describes the work that matters most to him as having "a personal touch that brings something unique and special, always that sense of discovery, of finding things they didn't anticipate and going further than they thought," he's perfectly described his own.
BONUS: Check out Hampton's op-ed piece on "It's a Wonderful Life" from the December 24 edition of The Boston Globe. The title is classic Hampton--"It's a cruel, depraved, anything-but-wonderful life," reads the headline.