Author(s): James Wood
In the tradition of E. M. Forster's "Aspects of the Novel" and Milan Kundera's "The Art of the Novel", "How Fiction Works" is a scintillating and searching study of the main elements of fiction, such as narrative, detail, characterization, dialogue, realism, and style. In his first full-length book of criticism, one of the most prominent critics of our time takes the machinery of story-telling apart to ask a series of fundamental questions: What do we mean when we say we 'know' a fictional character? What constitutes a 'telling' detail? When is a metaphor successful? Is realism realistic?Why do most endings of novels disappoint? Wood ranges widely, from Homer to Beatrix Potter, from the Bible to John Le Carre, and his book is both a study of the techniques of fiction-making and an alternative history of the novel. Playful and profound, it incisively sums up two decades of bold, often controversial, and now classic critical work, and will be enlightening to writers, readers, and anyone interested in what happens on the page.
A deep, practical anatomy of the novel from 'the strongest ... literary critic we have' (New York Review of Books)
"This compelling essay shows just how deeply, sensitively, imaginatively and joyfully he reads" * Scotland on Sunday * "There aren't many book reviewers whose leaving one magazine to go to work for another would make the headlines. But then there aren't many book reviewers like James Wood" * Sunday Telegraph * "Luminous... full of top-notch observations from the coal-face" -- D.J. Taylor * Independent on Sunday * "Enchanting... Witty, concise, and composed with a lovely lightness of touch" * Economist * "Exceptionally illuminating... brilliantly acute and enticingly widely read work. It should be compulsory reading for anyone in the reviewing trade and committed to memory before aspiring writers put pen to paper. For those who intend to pursue the underrated calling of reading fiction without wishing to add to its ranks, it will not only make reading more pleasurable, but articulate what you may have felt but never been able to express" -- Rosemary Goring * Herald *
James Wood is a staff writer at The New Yorker and Professor of the Practice of Literary Criticism at Harvard. He is the author of two essay collections, The Broken Estate and The Irresponsible Self, and a novel, The Book Against God.