Walter Kirn on James Wood’s “How Fiction Works.”

Kirn is unbound and throwing rocks, many of which connect.  From the NYT:

Having been lashed by twice as many citations as even a formalist-cum-­structuralist should require, and having been incrementally diminished by Wood’s tone of genteel condescension (he flashes the Burberry lining of his jacket whenever he rises from his armchair to fetch another Harvard Classic), the common reader is likely to concede virtually anything the master wishes — except, perhaps, his precious time. For someone who professes to understand the fine machinations of characterization, Wood seems oblivious to the eminently resistible prose style of his donnish, finicky persona. “How Fiction Works” is a definitive title, promising much and presuming even more: that anyone, in the age of made-up memoirs and so-called novels whose protagonists share their authors’ biographies and names, still knows what fiction is; that those who do know agree that it resembles a machine or a device, not a mess, a mystery or a miracle; and that once we know how fiction works, we’ll still care about it as an art form rather than merely admire it as an exercise. But there is one question this volume answers conclusively: Why Readers Nap.


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