The Fun Stuff and Other Essays

James Wood

The Fun Stuff and Other Essays

In twenty-three dispatches that range over such crucial writers as Thomas Hardy, Leo Tolstoy, and Edmund Wilson, Wood offers a panoramic look at the modern novel. He effortlessly connects his encyclopaedic, eloquent understanding of the literary canon with an equally in-depth analysis of the most important authors writing today, including Cormac McCarthy, Kazuo Ishiguro, and V.S. Naipaul. Included in The Fun Stuff are the title essay on Keith Moon and the lost joys of drumming - which was a finalist for last year's National Magazine Awards - as well as Wood's essay on George Orwell, which Christopher Hitchens selected for the Best American Essays 2010. 4.0 out of 5 based on 10 reviews
The Fun Stuff and Other Essays

Omniscore:

Classification Non-fiction
Genre Literary Studies & Criticism
Format
Pages 288
RRP
Date of Publication February 2013
ISBN 978-0224097116
Publisher Jonathan Cape
 

In twenty-three dispatches that range over such crucial writers as Thomas Hardy, Leo Tolstoy, and Edmund Wilson, Wood offers a panoramic look at the modern novel. He effortlessly connects his encyclopaedic, eloquent understanding of the literary canon with an equally in-depth analysis of the most important authors writing today, including Cormac McCarthy, Kazuo Ishiguro, and V.S. Naipaul. Included in The Fun Stuff are the title essay on Keith Moon and the lost joys of drumming - which was a finalist for last year's National Magazine Awards - as well as Wood's essay on George Orwell, which Christopher Hitchens selected for the Best American Essays 2010.

Reviews

The Observer

Andrew Anthony

The gift of the great critic is to be able to explain complex concepts to the reader in a manner that is neither bamboozling nor patronising. Although demanding of the reader's attention, Wood has this gift, but perhaps his most impressive facility — and one apparently lost on Lethem — is his willingness to pay authors the compliment of taking their work as seriously as they take it themselves.

10/02/2013

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The Independent

Max Liu

The Fun Stuff … demonstrates why Wood is one of the most influential, illuminating literary critics at work today.

15/02/2013

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The Independent on Sunday

Peter Carty

With its combination of seriousness and accessibility, his approach works well for a general reader — if occasional fogeyness is discounted. So this latest collection, selected from contributions to The New Republic, The New Yorker and the London Review of Books, repays close reading. Indeed, scouring texts for insights is Wood's own key critical technique. It helps him to consistently pass the decisive test for critics, of being able to shift vague perceptions about an author from the back of a reader's mind into tight focus at the front.

27/01/2013

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The Literary Review

Seamus Perry

... while the interests here lie mostly in contemporary fiction, in his deepest critical temperament James Wood is really a late Romantic. The origins of his impressively consistent set of aesthetic preferences can be found in Coleridge and Keats and their 19th-century disciples; and not the least interesting aspect of his book is the ample evidence it provides of Romanticism's extraordinary capacity to reinvent itself from generation to generation.

01/02/2013

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The Economist

The Economist

... these essays convey the enthusiasm of a critic who is continually learning. Whether he is describing the delight of reading novels by Joseph O’Neill and Aleksander Hemon, or the thrill of drumming in a rock band, there is a playfulness in Mr Wood’s writing that manages to be risky and reliable at once.

09/02/2013

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The Scotsman

Stuart Kelly

As the leading critic of your generation, one benefit in creating a book like this is to write mostly about what you admire (with caveats, and with the exception of Paul Auster who gets a very well deserved vivisection). I do, however, rather miss his snarl as well as his smile.

26/01/2013

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The Spectator

John Sutherland

Wood’s extraordinary quality, and venial shortcomings, are evident in his essay on Lermontov’s A Hero of Our Time. He seems unaware of, or uninterested in, the preface to the second edition in which the author declared: ‘A Hero of Our Time, dear readers, is in fact a portrait, but not of an individual; it is the aggregate of the vices of our whole generation in their fullest expression.’ It’s usually regarded as a revealing statement. And it’s perverse to devote 5,000 words to this novel without a paragraph or so on Lermontov’s (and the hero, Pechorin’s) god, Byron. But there is a compensating freshness of critical attack, a relish in Wood’s exegesis (suggestive of someone very brilliant coming to the novel for the first time) which is infectious. It makes you want to go back and read the text again. Properly, this time. OK, I admit it. He’s a great critic. Quote me.

02/02/2013

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The Daily Telegraph

Sameer Rahim

One of this collection’s strengths is the way dead authors — Tolstoy, Hardy, Richard Yates — take their place alongside modern ones … There are signs, though, that at the age of 48, Wood is growing restless with the reviewing treadmill.

17/01/2013

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The Sunday Telegraph

David Annand

Almost all these essays are shot through with his characteristic light humour and moral seriousness, each expertly constructed paragraph rich with metaphorical insight. As well as writings on Tolstoy and Hardy, Ismail Kadare and Lydia Davis, the collection includes a lovely piece on Wood’s father-in-law’s library, and a superb textual analysis of Robert Alter’s translation of the Pentateuch enriched by Wood’s own deep biblical knowledge.

12/02/2013

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The Sunday Times

Peter Kemp

An authorial demeanour indicative of lofty, uncompromising cerebration casts an oppressive shadow over all the essays ... A desire to sabotage writers’ effects and ruin readers’ enjoyment of books they’ve not yet read isn’t the only instance of an urge to impose ... Of mystifyingly eminent repute in some quarters, Wood has a penchant for mystification in his prose ... One essay in The Fun Stuff is about George Orwell. What that scourge of affectation and campaigner for clarity would have made of Wood isn’t hard to guess.

03/02/2013

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