Tony Christini has posted a PDF of Fiction Gutted: The Establishment and the Novel (thanks Steve) which is "a sustained and passionate critique of James Wood's How Fiction Works" (according to the Contra James Wood blog):

As Gideon Lewis-Kraus notes, writing in the Los Angeles Times, James Wood is a writer who matters. People read him, people of the educated, monied, controlling part of the populace. That's why it's important that what James Wood writes does not matter – in central ways. Nowhere is this more on display than in How Fiction Works, the star critic's most recent book, a truncated politically-charged though aesthetic appreciation of fiction that is spectacular in its misrepresentation of reality, or "the real, which is at the bottom of [Wood's] inquiries." Ask Wood to annotate a novel, and he provides sometimes splendid views of narrative lines by way of an at times "uncannily well-tuned ear," as Terry Eagleton notes. He is eager to discourse at length, often with quick pith, on how to strive toward reality in fiction (or criticism), reality of the profound sort, the truth, a worthy aim. Unfortunately, HFW is resolute in not accurately representing central elements of reality in both fiction and, call it, actuality, life outside fiction (more...)

Readers Comments

  1. Two worries: about writing on literature (especially) that is so ill written, and about such extended denunciations of (especially) writing on literature.

  2. Spot on, Paul...&, btw, if you managed to plough your way through to the end, how dispiriting was the concluding "NOTE: No time to finish this "essay" currently. I hope to return to it in a few months to extend the analysis..."?

    However, I'm absolutely sure "unstable multipurview meld (UMM). (Or, more simply put: unstable purview meld, UPM)" will be cropping up in a review near you all-too-soon...

    Dear, oh dear.

  3. Agreed Paul and Robin. This link -- like many others on the site -- is posted under the heading "potentially interesting" not "in complete agreement with"! This was posted because a critique of Wood is needed and I'm interested in any attempt made at such, but this is a curious piece -- pedantic and tone-deaf in equal measure -- that moves us forward hardly at all.

  4. Abbeville Press Tuesday 28 October 2008

    A deeply illiterate, though hilarious, piece of nonsense by an author who has clearly stuck his nose into the crazy glue of Marxist lit theory and inhaled deeply. Our favorite part (also the part at which we stopped reading) was the ominous suggestion that the Flaubertian trick of juxtaposing the terrifying and the trivial detail--often used, as Wood notes, in war reportage--is not an aesthetic effect at all but rather "an approach highly useful to the establishment" with their "criminal aggressions." Bravo. --The Arbiters of Style, The Abbeville Manual of Style

Leave a Comment

If you have not posted a comment on RSB before, it will need to be approved by the Managing Editor. Once you have an approved comment, you are safe to post further comments. We have also introduced a captcha code to prevent spam.




Enter the code shown here:   [captcha]

Note: If you cannot read the numbers in the above image, reload the page to generate a new one.