"BAD PAPER: The Bursting of the Fiction Bubble"

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March 6, 2010

How Corruption Works

James Wood's Favorite Books Are the Ones His Editor Also Happened to Edit

Posted by Mark Asch on Fri, Mar 5, 2010 at 4:36 PM
As we reported earlier, the new editor of the Paris Review will be the impeccably credentialed Farrar, Strauss and Giroux editor Lorin Stein; news items on his appointment mention, by way of introduction, that his recent high-profile credits include collaborations with Richard Price on Lush Life, Lydia Davis on many of the stories recently included in The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis, and James Wood on How Fiction Works.

Two of the most generous reviews Wood has written during his time as a critic at the New Yorker were of Richard Price's Lush Life, and The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis.

Publishing is of course an incredibly incestuous business—if you eliminated all conflicts of interest not even amateur Amazon reviewers would be left standing—nobody's arguing that Price and Davis aren't terrific. Or, for that matter, that Wood's reviews of their books aren't illuminating and admirably specific in their analysis and praise—we're better off having them.

Still, to the best of my knowledge nobody has yet pointed out that the book critic for the New Yorker shares an editor with some of the authors he's advocated for. This fact seems worth mentioning—it's better publicized than unacknowledged, for a number of reasons having to do with us being honest about what criticism is for and how it's possible to practice it.

(He also shares a publisher with Rivka Galchen and John Wray, whose recent novels he also liked.)