Category Archives: Wood, James

Best of ‘Novel Readings’: James Wood, How Fiction Works

This review first went up in March 2008. My brooding over deep vs. broad reading has had me thinking again about Wood’s criticism, which I wrote admiringly about when I first discovered him in 2007. (This remarkably belated discovery speaks volumes, I think, of the divide between academic and public criticism.) I have also been […]

Weekend Miscellany: P. D. James, Persephone Books, James Wood

Some articles and reviews of interest: At The Times, there’s an interesting interview with P. D. James, who has a new Adam Dalgleish novel coming out. James has often remarked that she sees herself working in the tradition of 19th-century domestic realism as much as the detective novel; her interest in the Victorians shows up […]

Weekend Miscellany: Mr Whicher, James Wood, Reader Online Poll

It’s ‘Halifax Natal Day’ here (also known as ‘we want an extra day off in August too’) and thus still in some sense the weekend, so here’s my semi-regular round-up of interesting things: At The Little Professor, there’s a typically thoughtful review of Kate Summerscale’s much-discussed The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, the story of the […]

James Wood, How Fiction Works

(Cross-posted to The Valve. Thank you to the regular Valve folks for the invitation to do some guest posting!) The dust jacket describes How Fiction Works as Wood’s “first full-length book of criticism.” Anyone led by this blurb to expect sustained analysis supported by extensive research and illustration will be disappointed, as in fact How […]

The Dead (Critics, That Is)

Dan Green alerts us to William Deresiewicz’s essay “Professing Literature in 2008” in The Nation, in which the author draws some dire conclusions about the profession of English literature from the evidence of this year’s MLA job listings: This year’s Job List confirms the picture of a profession suffering from an epochal loss of confidence. […]

Some Notes on How Fiction Works

I got my copy of Wood’s How Fiction Works from the Book Depository a couple of days ago and in between finishing He Knew He Was Right and The Maltese Falcon and starting Middlemarch and An Unsuitable Job for a Woman, I have managed to read the whole thing–not nearly as hard as it might […]

Why I Teach Literature" (with some thoughts about James Wood appended)

Not long ago there was a ‘meme’ going around on the question “Why Do I Teach Literature?” (Joseph Kugelmass’s comments on this topic at The Valve include links to further contributors). Reading around in my files today (where I am in search of an organizing pattern for future research–but that’s another post for another day) […]

The TLS Weighs in on Wood’s Latest

The TLS has its review of How Fiction Works up: As Wood moves between his approved texts, I was reminded of Henry James’s short story “The Great Good Place”. This satirical tale conceives heaven as a “sort of kindergarten”; nothing provides a challenge (and hills resemble gigantic bosoms). There is something of this in Wood’s […]

Coming Soon: James Wood, How Fiction Works

Mark Sarvas links us to this write-up of James Wood’s new book, How Fiction Works: To the business of criticism, Wood brings his personal baggage as a self-confessed Presbyterian Calvinist. He is a seeker of truth and enlightenment, reading being a sublime form of communication, an act almost of religious application, which requires serious study […]

"An Actual Literary Critic"?

Thanks to Dan Green for pointing us to this thoughtful piece on James Wood. Though I have read only some of Wood’s extensive critical output, I have certainly been impressed at both his compelling close reading and his commitment to taking literature and its forms and effects seriously; as I mostly share his apparent prejudices […]

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