"In Britain, the realm of book reviewing is still known as Grub Street though the actual Grub Street vanished long ago. But its occasionally vicious spirit lives on; one of the marks of Grub Street is that the spleen gets a voice. Ripping somebody’s reputation is recognized blood sport. Shredding a new book is a kind of fox hunting that is still legal today. Such critical violence is far less frequent in America. Any even remotely derogatory article in an American journal is called 'negative', and hardly any American publication wants to be negative."
Clive James on the sharp difference between book review styles on either side of the Atlantic. I can't really comment on the validity of the observation, but would say that if it's true then I pity those whose diet consists only of American reviews - call it Schadenfreude, but there's rarely anything so entertaining as a scathing write-up, even one that's unfair. Who wants to read nothing but sympathetic niceties?
(Thanks to Adam for the link.)