Tuesday 12 November 2013

James Wood - beat poet

The literary critic James Wood seems to publish a collection of essays every four years, so I suppose the next book is out in 2016. Plenty of time to catch up - and all of his books repay close reading, and re-reading. He's an exemplary critic - thorough, discriminating, cultivated and balanced. He writes extremely well in disarmingly plain English and appears to have read everything. Everything. A good place to start is his first book, which includes a brilliant memoir about growing up in an Evangelical Christian household in Durham. He considers how the loss of faith leads a literate adolescent into a search for something to fill the God-shaped hole, and how this search necessarily involves the highest and most scrupulous standards - there's no time for trash or the second-rate because the stakes are too high.

Four books so far:

The Broken Estate: Essays on Literature and Belief (Modern Library, 2000) 
The Irresponsible Self: On Laughter and the Novel (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2004)
How Fiction Works (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008)
The Fun Stuff (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012) 

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