Must be the passing of the autumnal equinox or something, but there's a new mood of Tolkien-baiting out there in internet land. It's not just Tolkien - even Howard is getting it in the neck (much more deservedly, of course, but pointing out that Howard was a racist is a bit like shooting fish in a barrel).
I was thinking about this sort of thing earlier on myself. I'm re-reading Tales of the Dying Earth at the moment, and it occurred to me that people could, especially when it comes to Cugel, read all manner of misogynistic ideas into Vance's work. I don't particularly entertain such readings myself, but I don't doubt that they can and have been made.
What interests me about all this is the way in which people tend to imprint onto works of fiction what they want those works to represent (i.e., the devil incarnate), rather than engaging with them in any sort of formalist sense. This was one of the tendencies that turned me strongly away from English literature as an undergraduate. Feminists, Marxists, New Historicists, Deconstructionists, all of these groups tend to read subtexts into works of fiction that not only do not exist, but which always coincidentally happen to reinforce their own worldview perfectly. It's almost as if, desparate to reassure themselves that their own opinions are in fact true, people clutch on to a literary work and set it up as a strawman for themselves to beat down and thereby reinforce their own political standpoints. Thus you get Marxists such as Moorcock and Melville berating Tolkien for nonexistent crimes while simultaneously digging the foundations of their own Marxist beliefs ever deeper, almost as if they need and are desparate for some sort of enemy to define themselves against.
People remorselessly search for enemies, so as to better define their own opinions - especially when they themselves feel somewhat insecure. This seems to me a fundamental flaw in the human condition which is especially prevalent in people who study English literature. I expect the same flaw was at the root of the rise of nationalism during the 1930s (though of course I'm not comparing idiotic literary pseuds to Hitler); in countries like Germany, Japan, etc. in which the very foundations of society had been rocked, traumatised and destabilised by historical events, society itself began casting about for enemies so as to better and more clearly define what it itself stood for. Thus Germany fixated upon Jews, Slavs and Bolsheviks as a means of differentiating and reinforcing a (ridiculous) notion of what it meant to be German and what a perfect German society should be (i.e., the opposite of what Jews and Bolsheviks were like). This impulse is at the heart of a lot that is bad in the world. Including bad literary criticism.