ranters and ravers

James Wood Objects to Descriptions of His Book But Does Not Deny He Is Raising an Army

Are you ready for the revolution?Photo-illustration: Everett Bogue; Photos: Getty Images, istockphoto

Yesterday we wrote a post warning the literary community of the imminent threat, first identified by the Observer, of New Yorker book critic James Wood’s army of fellow-thinking young novelists. Well, Wood himself stepped down from the balcony on which we’ve pictured him above to comment on the post last night:

For the record, because the record matters, and the record is now online rather than anywhere else, I must respond to the nonsense above: my new book is precisely not a prescriptive guide to writing one kind of book (it praises the novel as the virtuoso of exceptionalism); it is precisely not a defense of ‘the high realist novel,’ whatever that is (the chapter on character defends a postmodern idea of a kind of ‘character of gaps’); and to say that I champion the fiction of character and dialogue over ‘stylistic flourishes’ is almost the opposite of the truth. As almost every word of criticism I have ever written attests, I pay the greatest attention to ‘stylistic flourishes,’ examine them, and revel joyfully in them. They are everything.

We suppose we should be grateful that Wood responded with a comment, rather than sending out a midnight hit squad of Wood-worshipping Columbia MFAs. Now, we can’t address Wood’s book How Fiction Works, which we’re terrified to read — apparently it’s like the pulse in Stephen King’s Cell, it turns you into a Wood acolyte (a Woody?) instantly upon reading, and you immediately abandon your family and follow James Wood, zombielike, through the streets of New York. We can confirm that the last Wood review we read, of Joseph O’Neill’s Netherland, was indeed full of praise for O’Neill’s stylistic flourishes.

But that’s all beside the point. Did you notice that, while protesting the Observer’s characterization of his book, Commandant Wood coolly never denies that he’s raising an army? Or that his army will soon be storming the gates of every Barnes & Noble in the city, belittling customers for their Don DeLillo purchases? We hope you’ve packed your adjectives away, because no one’s safe in the new era — not with the Woodys at large.

Earlier: Is ‘New Yorker’ Critic James Wood Creating an Army of Like-minded Young Novelists?

James Wood Objects to Descriptions of His Book But Does Not Deny He Is Raising an Army