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 if its rewards are to be properly mined. What he is always on the lookout for are phoneys, bum notes, intrusive authorial voices, obviousness, lazy thinking, the denial of art, the fear of experiment. Iconoclastic he may be, but he is also respectful, sensitive and challenging. As he sees it, he has a moral imperative to investigate hype and hypocrisy, showing readers less well-read than him in every sense what is actually going on in a novel. (read the rest here)

I’ve already identified myself as an admirer of Wood, though I can’t claim to have read more than a small fraction of his extensive output. The references here to his ‘religious application’ or outlook are especially interesting in the context of his earlier book The Broken Estate: Essays on Literature and Belief (brief excerpt here). I’ll certainly want to read How Fiction Works as part of my inquiry into ‘books about books‘ written for non-specialist or non-academic readers. It sounds very much in the tradition of David Lodge’s excellent The Art of Fiction, which remains my favourite in this genre.

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