But Wood also successfully makes the transition to the next historical period, for which 9/11 stands as the turning point. It’s not that surprising, of course, because ultimately the two ages aren’t that different either, the latter merely ‘baring of the device’ (fangs? thumbscrews?), you might say, of the former. The End of History morphs into the bad infinity of the permanent War on Terror. What is called for now is smug moralism and smarmy superiority, priggishness and sanctimony and more than a little fundamentalism – which is why Tony Blair was so well-qualified for making the transition from the first period to the second. Likewise Wood, who is in so many ways the ultimate Blairite critic and even a transposition of Tony Blair into the realm of letters (even after Blair outstayed his welcome in Britain he enjoyed very high approval ratings in the U.S.). Ever true to his times (in the name of ‘eternal’ human nature!), Wood is always exposing threats to the purity of the novel, policing and strengthening its borders (see how often he pronounces his foes’ works to be ‘not novels’), exposing heretics and enemies with the interrogatory beam of his vigilant surveillance.
His ditching of the New Republic for the New Yorker last year and publication of the "magisterial" How Fiction Works in this confirm that he's an imperialist for our times.
I'll be having more to say about How Fiction Works in the coming weeks and months, but in the meantime I'd like recommend the two best reviews of it I've read so far, the first by Daniel Green -- the web's best critic of Wood's work -- at Open Letters Monthly (make sure you also visit his blog, The Reading Experience) and the second by Walter Kirn at the New York Times Book Review.