Tuesday, September 2, 2008

How Fiction Works by James Woods

I've been reading the new book by James Woods, How Fiction Works. I'm enjoying it a lot--enjoying the act of engaging with it and thinking about what he's saying. It's good old fashioned literary criticism that is challenging but accessible. I've seen a lot of hostile reviews of it, mostly complaining that he's too fancy pants. But I don't mind that he refers to books I haven't read or uses words I don't know. I don't feel shown up or made insecure by it. I'm a grown up and have access to dictionaries and libraries.

That said, I know that there is a theory of literature that is being laid out which I might or might not agree with if I had it laid out clearly for me, but I haven't been reading closely enough to tease it out. I've just been going along for the ride. More on that I hope, after I finish it.

One quibble. In the intro he surveys other guides in this genre and how his project is justified by its difference from all the rest, but in doing that he doesn't acknowledge L. Rust Hills, whose book his probably most resembles.

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