Suspend Your Disbelief

Posts Tagged ‘James Wood’

Shop Talk |

How Fiction Works Discussion Review: Free Indirect Style

I’ve been trying to read Muriel Barbery’s critically acclaimed novel The Elegance of the Hedgehog, and while I’m relishing many of the author’s ideas, they feel to me like just that–the author’s ideas, not ones that belong to the book’s characters; a wealthy pre-teen and middle-aged concierge spend at least the first section of Hedgehog (I’m on p. 114) hiding their gifted selves from everyone they know while sharing them, mostly in monologue/journaling style, with us. Their use of language is almost identical, as is their attitude toward (and analysis of) the world around them. So much of the book […]

Shop Talk |

How Fiction Works Discussion Review: Fiction and Social Change

Fiction can change the world. Now that I’ve dropped that lead balloon on my foot, allow me to leave it there temporarily as penance for not only opening with such a clichéd adage, but also a self-aggrandizing one. Worse yet, I believe it. Deeply. Despite how hackneyed a statement, fiction has the potential to change our world. Perhaps not always in the same way as clean drinking water or penicillin, but alter our lives it can. And powerfully so. James Wood touches on this phenomenon in his essay-chapter “Sympathy and Complexity.” He opens with an anecdote about a Mexican police […]

Shop Talk |

How Fiction Works Discussion Review: Wood Echoing Wood

How Fiction Works is simultaneously a gloss on the history of what James Wood calls “modern realist narration” and an encapsulation of much of Wood’s criticism to date. That is to say, in charting realism’s development, Wood revisits many subjects from his two previous books of essays, The Broken Estate and The Irresponsible Self. Much of what I admire in Wood’s past criticism is on display again here. Yet the way in which Wood repurposes older material occasionally rankles. Consider, for example, the excellent opening of his introduction to Saul Bellow’s Collected Stories: Every writer is eventually called a “beautiful […]

Shop Talk |

How Fiction Works Discussion Review: An Introduction

Over the next week, I will join fellow FWR contributors Greg Schutz, Celeste Ng, Natalie Bakopoulos, and Jeremiah Chamberlin in discussing critic James Wood’s latest collection of essays, How Fiction Works. Feel free to join the conversation by commenting on our blog posts. In How Fiction Works, Wood approaches the elusive how behind craft by “ask[ing] a critic’s questions and offer[ing] a writer’s answers.” He explores such mysteries as the distinction between narrative and authorial language in order, in his own words, “to reconnect that technique to the world, as Ruskin wanted to connect Tintoretto’s work to how we look […]

Shop Talk |

recommended review: Erika Dreifus on How Fiction Works by James Wood

One of my favorite blogs is Erika Dreifus’ Practicing Writing, an offshoot of her larger site The Practicing Writer, originally referred to me by Celeste. One day I’ll have to devote a long entry to the awesomeness of the many rich resources and services Erika provides to writers–most free of charge–but for now I’ll just link you to her astute review of James Wood’s How Fiction Works, a book that I’ve been both savoring and smacking against things this fall. How Fiction Works will be FWR’s next Discussion Review. If you’d like to join the conversation — I’m getting in […]