Sometimes, the literary criticism of the writer-critic is subordinated to his creative designs and serves, above all, to understand his own work, not so much that of others (usually happens with the very great ones: when Tolstoy writes about Shakespeare, for example, he in actuality writes about Tolstoy himself). Sometimes, however, the creator carries within himself a true critic, someone who, at the same time as carrying out a committed and personal reading of a work, does not subordinate it to an individual purpose. Above all, it seeks better understanding with no other purpose than to offer its interpretation to other readers. It is the best kind of criticism: the one that is born of admiration and enthusiasm and tries to share them. It is, in any case, the one that Juan Villoro has chosen to practice in the usefulness of desire, as before in that is about and personal effects.
Villoro who is one of the best literary critiques could have devoted entirely to it, but, of course, who wants to be a commentator when you can be a player, by resorting to one of his passions as a metaphor; even less when you can be a player and a commentator at the same time. In the opening decades of this era, and after the disappearances of Paz, Monsiváis and Fuentes, Villoro was emerging as one of the leading figures in the literature. Charismatic and with great ease of speech, at some point it seemed impossible to turn to any side and not see it. Villoro on television, commenting on the World Cup or explaining the pyramids of Teotihuacán; tirelessly publishing articles in newspapers; accompanying the Zapatistas; presenting a new book of chronicles or stories; sponsoring young storytellers; entering the National College; premiering plays; appearing in the Vive Latino; tweeting aphorisms, etc. It is needless to say, this almost omnipresence implies benefits and also some dangers. One of them is that the character overshadows the writer and the work. His proverbial ingenuity provokes, at times, a phenomenon similar to the one he observes in Monsiváis in one of the essays collected in this book: "as a humourist". He ran the risk of being seen as a 'man of occurrences and not of ideas', as Octavio Paz pointed out in the famous polemic they held in 1977. Sometimes, humour awakens reflection; in others, it inhibits it. "Just as Monsiváis's audience sometimes just expected the joke and was predisposed to laugh at anything, so Villoro's audience sometimes seems to wait for the witty comment and the brilliant phrase.
In the "usefulness of desire", there are some of the best phrases that he has written, and not only of criticism, because anyone would put this book along with others or the preferred ones. The Witness and Calls of Amsterdam, are two masterpieces of the novel at the ends of the gender, and the book of stories ‘The House'. The essay of literary criticism is an arduous genre that must be masterfully grasped to make it attractive to the reader. Start with a handicap: why would someone read a text about another text when they could read a novel, a story or a poem? Would not it be, in fact, much more reasonable? I believe, however, that there would be at least two reasons to justify the reading of a critical text: to discover a work that we ignored or make us better understand the one we already knew, and that is as well written as the text of creation, let it be literature itself. Both conditions are met here. One wants to run to reread the Russians after "The words of the heroes. Notes on Russian literature "or the texts on Gogol and Dostoevsky; sees under a new light Lopez Velarde and Joyce after reading "'Historical little things Narrative chronicles in Ramón Lopez Velarde", with its magnificent ending, worthy of the best story. In short, the only form can transform literary criticism into literature. Villoro knows how to go to the depths of a text, analyse it and illuminate it without resorting to abstruse theories or using a cryptic and pseudoscientific jargon, as a certain critic, especially academics, likes, whose inanity disguises itself as darkness and false sophistication. Critics could learn a lot from the depth and clarity lesson that this book contains.
For this same excellence, it is striking that its author sometimes assumes positions of a certain cultural-literary populism, of a politically correct egalitarianism (do not let anyone think, God, forbid, that we are elitists), as when he declared recently on the Free Letters Website with regard to the idea of canon: "the idea of the canon is an imperial idea of Bloom, and all notion of canon is authoritarian. Readers should appeal to read more horizontal and less vertical; It seems to me that one of the great deficits of criticism is that it is based in excess on the notion of hierarchy". Of course, any notion of canons, such as classic and tradition, has something authoritarian (not because it is based exclusively on a principle of authority and wants to impose itself on the force, but because it demands, from the outset, a certain recognition whose justification then must be verified in the reading). There is no actor without auctor, and this is always upright. There is no literary criticism without a notion of hierarchy and, in fact, if the current criticism presents a deficit it is precisely the one caused by the decay of that idea (we must not discriminate against anyone, all writers and works are worthy of the same attention, especially those to whom attention has never been paid, etc.). There is, however, nothing to worry about because, in fact, the criticism exercised by Villoro obeys the ideas of canon, authority and hierarchy, and is outstanding in a good part of that.
In the prologue, remembering the wooded origin of books and wooden dividers, Villoro reflects: "I write of others with a similar illusion, thinking that they should be read and, something even more disproportionate, that perhaps they will be because of what is here", He says. What comes out of the forest, returns to the forest. Read books: a way to burn wood. That's right: literature ignites the fire and causes the fire; It is the honourable mission of the criticism to propagate it.