Strong-willed, a bit Athenian in its language, and passionate, Gardner is arguing here more than anything else for art to uplift the spirit of its audience.
This seems to be an important stand to take when critically approaching literature. This book, I believe, is important for educators to study so as to more effectively lead their students in developing their critical thinking skills.
Moral judgments, I agree, should be made towards our literature -- and not, as Gardner makes clear, in some weary dogmatic fashion. He makes no bones about recognizing talent; he sees, for example, Pound as a gifted writer, even as he rejects the negative aspects inherent within Pound's work.
Is the book easy? No. The book is difficult and demands an incredible amount of focus. It is, however, worth the effort.
Interestingly, it also has had an effect on my view of some classics. _Lord of the Flies_, for example, I will now freely claim as destructive in its worldview. Do I think it still needs to be part of the high school canon? Of course. But primarily to get the students to develop their arguments for or against its nihilistic view of humanity.
An important work.