I've never really thought much of literary criticism of the academic variety. Correction: I suppose I took it quite seriously as a teenager as representing something important because the academic world seemed to think so and who was I to question that world. By my early twenties I had a fair idea of who I was and had come to the conclusion that not only was such criticism not the only valid response to literary works but it was generally pretty daft as a response when there were much more obvious and healthy ways of responding. (Reading and enjoying springs to mind, for starters.)
However, despite my general scepticism there remain quite a number of academic types who I regard as honourable exceptions to my broad and enjoyably sweeping generalisations, and none is more honourable than Prof Stephen Greenblatt. I loved his book about the development of modern sceptical thought in relation to Lucretius, The Swerve, that Karen got me for my birthday a couple of years back, and his biography of the Bard, Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare, is one of the best of its kind, and the one I'd probably point the general reader towards.
He's now gone even further up in my already high estimation after reading a piece he's got in the current issue of The New York Review of Books. His essay on Shakespeare in Tehran is wonderful, so much so I felt I had to provide a link to the on-line version just for you, dear Reader. If we're going to build bridges between cultures this is how it will be done, not through empty platitudinous cliches but through intelligent and perceptive and honest analysis.
And I now have something new to strive for: to be honest, and of an open and free nature, like the great man himself. It's not going to be easy.