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Fiction Gutted

The Establishment and the Novel


Tony Christini


Smashwords Edition

Copyright 2008 Tony Christini

smashwords.com/profile/view/christini


Fiction Gutted

The Establishment and the Novel


PART ONE

As Gideon Lewis-Kraus notes, writing in the Los Angeles Times, James Wood is a writer who matters. People read him, people of the educated, monied, controlling part of the populace. That's why it's important that what James Wood writes does not matter – in central ways. Nowhere is this more on display than in How Fiction Works, the star critic's most recent book, a truncated politically-charged though aesthetic appreciation of fiction that is spectacular in its misrepresentation of reality, or "the real, which is at the bottom of [Wood's] inquiries." Ask Wood to annotate a novel, and he provides sometimes splendid views of narrative lines by way of an at times "uncannily well-tuned ear," as Terry Eagleton notes. He is eager to discourse at length, often with quick pith, on how to strive toward reality in fiction (or criticism), reality of the profound sort, the truth, a worthy aim. Unfortunately, HFW is resolute in not accurately representing central elements of reality in both fiction and, call it, actuality, life outside fiction. A few examples of these crucial misrepresentations show how such blindness chops understanding of fiction and life, and why it makes one safe to be a literary star of the status quo, of the establishment, of money and power. One must bury and falsify crucial reality. To that end, in How Fiction Works, James Wood has written an establishment polemic in the guise of aesthetics – a deeply partisan status quo account of the novel that is also pervasive in its misrepresentations of both reality and aesthetics.

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