After my last post of a few days' ago I went to my local bookseller and picked up a copy of a copy of her selected works. Since Friday evening I've been dipping into her short essays and critical writings, with occasional forays into her poems.
Damn, can she write!
In a way, having read some of her best lines separate from her works has dampened their effect for me, as they can feel like a recycled punchline. Yet within the context of their overall review they can gain a new power, like the knockout blow in a match or a fatal cut delivered in the midst of a sword fight that only becomes evident once the duel is over. Because there is something to her critical analysis that gets lost when defined by a few cherry-picked lines, as they only form the sharp edge of a devastating assessment.
What makes them so particularly impressive, though, is how well they stand up on their own, decades after the performances of plays no longer staged and the publication of books no longer in print. I don't have to see or read the works she reviews to enjoy the acidity of her assessments. This makes them literature in their own right, which I plan to turn to often for a good laugh and to remember how fantastic critical writing can be when done well.