"BAD PAPER: The Bursting of the Fiction Bubble"

read it here.

October 26, 2008

The Establishment and the Novel

'Even one of Wood’s “favorite” critics of the novel, Roland Barthes, had the sense to note, “Why are we so slow, so indifferent about mobilizing narrative and the image? Can’t we see that it is, after all, works of fiction, no matter how mediocre they may be artistically, that best arouse political passion?” Wood, distinctly lacking Barthes theoretical acumen (Terry Eagleton notes the obvious in a review of HFW), finds Barthes to be “interesting but wrongheaded,” (generally?) and Wood who is likely to be half the essayist, or even literary critic, that Edmund Wilson demonstrated himself to be, remains locked in to his primary interest in fiction, its “special kind of aesthetic experience,” so locked in that this fixation gives him tunnel vision, causing misunderstanding about aesthetics, fiction, life. False notions such as this plaint are the least of it: “a flat style [is] unfit for permanent criticism – which lasts, after all, only if it, too, becomes literature,” a remark that is, first, false and, second, self-contradicting, given its mundane style.'

Tony Christini's "Fiction Gutted:  The Establishment and the Novel," a sustained and passionate critique of James Wood's How Fiction Works, is available at A Practical Policy.  Almost a small volume in itself, it can be read in separate sections or downloaded as a pdf file.

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