Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Wood Says So

After reading James Wood's "How Fiction Works" months ago I started accumulating ideas and was attempting to articulate them when I came across this article in The Nation which convinces me I am on to something and should eventually post my thoughts on Wood and realism. Until then I quote directly from this well written deconstruction of James Wood's problem (well, one of them, anyway) by William Deresiewicz:

"Wood's critical authority has become so daunting, it seems, that even he is afraid to challenge it. His argumentative method rests far too heavily on hand-waving, and while he is superb at turning a phrase, the fact that something sounds good doesn't guarantee that it makes any sense. Wood never stops to ask himself what his favorite formulas actually mean: characters who feel "real to themselves," who "forget" they're in a novel and so forth. These are obviously only metaphors, but metaphors for what? What, for that matter, does "lifeness" mean? And to what extent is Wood willing to take responsibility for his assertion, near the end of How Fiction Works, his new treatise on novelistic technique, that we should "replace the always problematic word 'realism' with the much more problematic word 'truth'"? Is something true (or beautiful, or good) just because James Wood says so?"

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