That’s what criticism should do, right? The critic doesn’t win. The critic can’t win or lose, really. But you can point out both sides and try to identify the context that produced this. I’ve never been super vain about my own takes, about whether people like what I like. I think I actually like very “basic” things. Whatever I contribute is more like storytelling—the story that this basic thing helps us tell.
As I grew up reading magazines, there weren’t that many Asian American people writing as critics, so I gravitated toward writers who spoke from this kind of marginal position but did it in very inventive ways. That’s always mediated my relationship to authority. Even though I can teach and I can write and I can project authority, I’m always very wary of notions of expertise or authority on the page. It’s like I’m pretending.
When I write, I try to begin from a place of authority and then I try to lose it over time. I want to transfer it to the reader. I want the reader to be able to see past what I’m saying or to take things that I’m saying and go in a different direction. I don’t want them to lose faith in me so much as I want them to discover some of their own.