“First, be generous. These are fellow travelers. To write a manuscript, to find a publisher, to see the book into publication, and to do all the tiny things one does to promote the creature amongst friends and strangers, well, it takes some courage and a fair spirit. Some books are better than others, true. But if we start with the premise that we are championing literature and not assessing valiancy, the work of judgment becomes a little more pleasurable. As does conferring awards on writers.
Second, Be interested in a wide range of aesthetics and ambitions and open to reconsidering your own predispositions and gripes against this or that aesthetic, predispositions and gripes that are your burden more than anyone else’s. Assessing the books of others involves constantly reassessing your own values, tastes, quirks, favorites and hostilities. It’s not like you can eliminate your mind in some inner Zen reboot, but putting yourself in a mode of receptivity hand in hand with alertness and advocacy allows you to be available to be surprised.
Third, read, read, and read. The more you have under your belt, the better position you’ll be in to feel some confidence that you’ve been a representative of the art of literature in the most affirming way.”