When James Wood's first collection of essays, The Broken Estate, was published in 1999, the reviewers hailed a master critic. The common thread in Wood's latest collection of essays is what makes us laugh - and the book is an attempt to distinguish between the perhaps rather limited English comedy (as seen in Waugh, for example) and a 'continental ...
When James Wood's first collection of essays, The Broken Estate, was published in 1999, the reviewers hailed a master critic. The common thread in Wood's latest collection of essays is what makes us laugh - and the book is an attempt to distinguish between the perhaps rather limited English comedy (as seen in Waugh, for example) and a 'continental' tragic-comedy, which he sees as real, universal and quixotic. A particularly acerbic, and very funny, essay - which has been widely celebrated - deals with Zadie Smith, Rushdie, Pynchon and DeLillo; its title, 'Hysterical Realism', has already entered the phrasebook of literary language. With its brilliant studies of Shakespeare, Dickens and Dostoevsky, Naipaul, Pritchett and Bellow, The Irresponsible Self offers more exhilarating despatches from one of our finest living critics.
New. This item is printed on demand. "James Wood has been called our best young critic. This is not true. He is our best critic; he thinks with a sublime ferocity."--Cynthia Ozick Following the collection "The Broken Estate"--which established James Wood as t.
Publishers Weekly, 2004-04-12 Still writing with magisterial sweep and terrific intensity, Wood (The Book Against God) in this newest collection of review-essays celebrates the indeterminate voice of comic narrative, which "replaces the knowable with the unknowable, transparency with unreliability," enabling the reader's sympathies without directing them. This voice aids the development of secular modernity, part of a "comedy of forgiveness" in which morality, no longer the voice of divine law, itself partakes of the foibles and variances of human temperament. Starting inevitably with Shakespeare and Cervantes, Wood offers up assessments of individual (male) writers who in one way or another exemplify Wood's principle, including Dostoyevski, Tolstoy, Italo Svevo, Giovanni Verga, Joseph Roth, Henry Green, Bellow. Oddly juxtaposed with this late 19th- to mid-20th-century sequence is a group of rather bilious reviews of a more recent generation of fiction, which Wood never deigns to call postmodern. His tone ranging from respectful reservation (about J.M. Coetzee) to outright contempt (for Tom Wolfe), Wood hammers vigilantly at the failure of intellectual, cultural and political motives to make good fiction. Unlike American culture-warriors, Wood takes his sharp ear and deep convictions straight to the work itself, carefully explaining the structural, formal and tonal weaknesses of what he calls "hysterical realism," revealing his distaste for journalism and pop culture but never advancing it. Most compelling is the way his own style swells and contracts with his subject matter, blithely metaphorical in praising Bellow, earnest and lucid in sorting out Jonathan Franzen or Zadie Smith, sarcastic in attacking Rushdie. Still, meaner spirits will await Dale Peck's Hatchet Jobs, also due in June. Agent, The Wiley Agency. (June 16) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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