James WoodPhoto: Getty Images
The American literary Establishment has been quaking in its boots for the past few weeks, wondering which beloved American author with a book coming out this fall would be the first to feel the sharp end of new New Yorker critic James Wood’s poison pen. Richard Russo? Philip Roth? Oh my God, is he going to be mean to Ann Patchett?
Well, the new issue contains his Wood’s review, and the American literary Establishment can rest easy for another week, because Wood’s gone after an even bigger target: the Lord. Wood reviews Robert Alter’s translation of The Book of Psalms, and it’s quite a generous and lovely review, as befits a book written by, you know, God. But also, for a brand-new critic to choose the Psalms as his first review seems kind of sinister. Isn’t he setting the bar kind of high for everyone else? “Oh, don’t worry, I’ll give you a good review,” says James Wood in this opening salvo. “All you have to do is write something as good as the frickin’ Bible.”
Update: Yes, yes, James Wood writes about God all the time.
Desert Storm [NYer]
Earlier: ‘New Yorker’ Hire Hates Our Way of Life?