The late English literary critic Frank Kermode, 90, was by his own admission a failed novelist and playwright who "stumbled into academic life" and chose criticism because it did not require as much creativity. and because h. He said he chose criticism because it did not require as much creativity and, writes T. Rees Shapiro. Considered one of Britain's most prolific and admired academics, Kermode sought to narrow the void between literature's elite academics and its casual readers, says Shapiro.