In the epilogue for FARGO ROCK CITY, Chuck Klosterman writes:
Do you agree?
There has to be a certain amount of subjectivity to criticism for the sake of intellectual honesty. If you want your readers to trust your opinion, you have to make it clear that it's an opinion and most important, they have to know who you are so they can identify to your material. "You don't need to know me because I'm a scholar" doesn't cut it anymore. Appreciating art is an exercise in subjectivity, like Minor said. An opinion.
I couldn't have appreciated Chuck Klosterman's insight on hair metal, if I didn't know who he was. If I didn't know that like me, he was an intellectual kid who grew up in a remote area, where it's not a winning plan to be an intellectual kid. Fuck, I'm going to listen to him just because of that. He uses the vernacular of young pop culture junkies, so I understand his process of thoughts, which is usually a few steps ahead of mine. It establishes a frame of reference we both understand and therefore I understood the deconstruction discourse in his work better than anywhere else.
But here's the issue. You can't criticize from too close. You can't talk about yourself in a way that has nothing to do with the subject. I read an alarming number of book reviews on a weekly basis that have a "the characters really got to me", "I could feel her inner turmoil" and "I really liked it" in the body of their argumentation. Right there, you're saying nothing about the book and everything about yourself. You're too close. To borrow from my boxing analogy again (that Christina gracefully quoted for her own answer), you can't stand too far because your points aren't going to hit and you can't stand too close because your points will be muffled my lack of perspective. You have to find the distance that works for you. That gives you a maximum impact on your readers.
Here's an example.
The best review I've read on the web during the last two weeks is Sabrina Ogden's review of John Rector's latest novel ALREADY GONE. It's even a lot better than mine! What makes it so great is that Sabrina introduces her review by telling us the story of her scumbag dope-peddling boyfriends in college. ALREADY GONE being a novel about not knowing somebody as well as you've thought, this establishes from the get go that she got the point. She sets the tone of the novel without spoiling the story and with an entertaining story on top of that.
So in a nutshell, I agree with Klosterman, but not everybody has the eloquence of tying up the loose ends of their lives with an intellectual point the way he does. I would go as fas as to say subjectivity is imperative (really, just read this blog and it's obvious), but its amount should vary from critic to critic, in regards to their level of comfort with the idea. Critics are not journalists. They deal with facts, we deal with art production.