Short answer: No.

Long answer: A reviewer need not like contemporary fiction in order to tell me which books are less bad than others. Peck’s review, however, doesn’t really help me decide whether or not I want to check out Moody’s latest. But then again, I am more interested in what he goes on to rant about than I am in Moody’s latest.

Peck now goes into my Anthony Lane file: reviewers who make me laugh and whose potshots I take childish pleasure in but whose opinions I don’t necessarily trust. (That said, I was surprised at how often I found I agreed with him, though I have more respect for D. Barthelme and Powers than he does, less for Barth.)

My visceral reaction is that his bitter, personally peeved exaggeration of the state of contemporary fic. makes for more valuable reading than many of the fence-straddlers you read in the NYT Book Review and elsewhere. I think it was Anne Tyler who said somewhere that she never writes a negative review because “life is too short for that.” No, Anne–life is too short to waste time reading bad books.