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« Rules for Writers | Main | This is Not a Post About Cormac McCarthy »

07/18/2005

Comments

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R. A. Rubin

Dan, You need to elaborate about this Psy. Realism. Anything that is Realism interets me, but not because a plant looks like a plant, heh heh, if you know what I mean.
R

David Milofsky

I think we've been here before. I don't know what Woods might mean (or what Dan thinks Woods means), but Henry James who essentially invented psychological realism saw it merely as the representation of a character's most personal thoughts and feelings. Prior to James even great writers had primarily described characters from the outside. James was innovative because he eschewed this approach and went inside, sometimes too far inside for my taste. Needless to say, McCarthy for all his other gifts doesn't go in this direction. I mean, ever.

Jonathan

What is Henry James, then, if not "literature"? Is Woods misrepresenting this remark, or McCarthy really say it?

David Milofsky

Good point, though I'm reluctant to damn McCarthy too much of Woods' say-so. I mean, the fact that he says McC once said this (without saying when and where), makes me suspicious. As far as I know, McCarthy's only submitted to two interviews since Blood Meridien and he didn't make this comment in either one. Of course, Woods may have some other source in mind that he doesn't mention. But in any case, there's no question that what James produced is literature.

Michael

I'm with you on this one, Dan. Woods' review is very fine in many ways, but he spends too much time on technique and, most of all, gives the review an ultimate trajectory towards explaining what the book is not, rather than what it is. He basically lost me when he said "a literary hostility to Mind," not because I don't understand what he means, but because I don't think the concept of mind (especially with the overkill of a capital M) is effective, precise, realistic, or useful. The Mind? That's just way too mystical for my tastes, and it drives me nuts when critics use such terminology.

birnbaum

Count me in as one of the McCarthy cultists. Reading James Wood's on MCcarthy has me wondering if we read the same book. Cormac absolutely attends to womankind with two characters (the wives of the two main male characters) who I see as smart and thoughtful and substantially important to the protagonists. And that's just tip of my differences with Woody.

I think James Wood's problem is with American writers of what he calls the Shaker tradition—Harrison, Russo, Haruf, Ford and even McGuane. These guys and their world's will, I think, forever be foreign turf for him.

neil paraday

Dan, I suspect you've read Wood's review but not McCarthy's new book. The description you quote from Wood's review is exactly right -- it's a thriller, with lots of guns and blood and not a thought in it. Completely anti-intellectual. If Elmore Leonard had written it you wouldn't be suprised at all. And I don't think Wood's review was a rant at all. It sensitively discussed Mccarthy's prose in a more complete and considered manner than I have ever seen in print.
neil Paraday

James Wood

Dear Dan Green
You make a specialty of commenting on things you haven't read, and readers of your blog should know this. The last time I wrote to you it was to point out that you had completely inverted, on the basis of a partial reading from an extract in a newspaper, the thrust of the introduction to my last book of essays. (You had me disapproving, rather than approving, of the irresponsible self in comic fiction!) Just a few weeks ago you were merrily opining, over at The Elegant Variation, about my review in the LRB of Nicole Krauss's novel, even though you had neither read the novel nor read the whole review (you were commenting on exactly two paragraphs of the review.) Now you weigh in on my review of the new MCcarthy novel, but I'd bet a hundred dollars that you haven't read the novel itself.
Neil Paraday is right; it's very violent, very tightly written (almost completely free of McCarthy's usual prose), and utterly empty: a pulp noir thriller, bound for the movies. It incarnates a kind of hostility to thought, dressed up as a hospitality to thought ("He sat and thought about his life" etc etc). I didn't think anything of the book but I take McCarthy seriously as a writer and above all as a prose stylist. How could one not? The review, far from being a rant, tried to cut through the wild stuff that is written about McCarthy, both negative and positive, and give a balanced assessment. This seems something you are constitutionally incapable of doing. It's a shame, and a shame that you are so furiously worked up about my aesthetics, because I suspect we'd have much to agree on (the importance of intelligence, for instance, in both fiction and criticism, the importance of the foregrounding of the aesthetic, of style, and many other things).
Yours
James Wood

Dan Green

Dear James Wood,

I need not have read the book to understand the criterion you're applying in reviewing it. It's the same criterion you always apply: Does the book explore consciousness, reveal to us something about "Mind"? Cormac McCarthy could have written any sort of book whatsoever and, if it hadn't demonstrated a "hospitality to thought"--as you define it-- you undoubtedly would have written the same kind of review.

(You say of *Blood Meridian*, for example that "The inflamed rhetoric of [the novel] is problematic because it reduces the gap between the diction of the murderous judge and the diction of the narration itself: both speak with mythic afflatus. 'Blood Meridian' comes to seem like a novel without internal borders." I don't find McCarthy's style either "inflamed" or "problematic." It's the sort of style this writer uses to write the kind of novels he writes. No internal borders. You don't like the kind of novels he writes because they don't delineate consciousness. You should just come out and say you want all novels to do this; it will allow your readers to reflect on whether they believe the same thing and assess your judgments accordingly.)

The "wild stuff" written about McCarthy is written by people who like what he does. So what?

And I have read your last book of essays. I put up a very long post about it--not the one to which you refer.

james wood

Dear Dan Green
It's not true that McCarthy could have written any kind of book and received the same kind of review from me -- and the evidence is there in my piece: the warm things I said about his other books. I do indeed have a prejudice in favor of the human, when it comes to mimesis (what might be called the representation of plausible human activity) and I make this perfectly clear; your rather strange implication is that I am somehow hiding this and ought to 'come out with it.'
I don't this a narrow aesthetic but the central language of the novel. And I am quite as interested as you in questions of style and aesthetics. Nor do I think that McCarthy is a 'realist' writer or should be one; I just think that his new book is morally empty and deftly formulaic.

Your second paragraph, about the inflamed diction of Blood Meridian, doesn't follow from the first. There is magnificent writing in that novel, as I, a great lover of Melville, wrote in the review. There is also a strain in McCarthy that can only be called hamminess (inflamed is a polite word); as I made clear in several quotations in the piece, this at times produces something close to antiquarianism at best and nonsense at worst in his writing. It is the business of the critic to sort these things out.

Your strange, easy pragmatism, by contrast, whereby every novelist is just writing the kind of novel he has set out to write -- every novel nicely occupying its own genre, its own grammar of codes -- disables proper criticism. I'll also add that it is strange that you, of all people, would so defend a thriller like this, since it represents merely the dead grammar, palely replicated, of the realist novel you so disdain anyway. It is a mere tissue of worn narrative codes. You'd see that if you read the book.

Dan Green

Dear James Wood,

In my opinion, the "warm things" you said about McCarthy are the equivalent of damning with faint praise.

Your discussions of psychological realism are always couched in such a way that we readers are meant to agree that, of course "the human" and "plausible human activity" are what novels should be about. It's a way of muting your underlying bias. You should just come out and say that you think the acme of the novel's achievement was the high modernists from James to Henry Green and that, for example, the postmodernists (or the "hysterical realists") are never going to measure up. That way, everyone will know that you are not really someone to read for a fair assessment of such writers, unless we already agree that the postmodernists have gone off in the wrong direction.

Why would my "strange, easy pragmatism" "disable" criticism? Proper criticism considers what a given work sets out to do. It judges that work by how effectively it carries out its ambition, as well as by more general literary criteria. I don't see why psychological realism must per se be among those criteria.

Your point about *Blood Meridian*'s style, as I take it, is that it doesn't allow for the appropriate delineation of character and consciousness. My own point thus follows directly from the first paragraph.

chris

Dan-

Wood writes, "I do indeed have a prejudice in favor of the human, when it comes to mimesis (what might be called the representation of plausible human activity) and I make this perfectly clear; your rather strange implication is that I am somehow hiding this and ought to 'come out with it.'"

You respond by repeating that he should "come out" with his aesthetic prejudices. This is your site, so it's obviously your prerogative to have the last word, but I don't see the value in repeating gripes that have explicitly been answered. Everyone who reads Wood's work well understands the rather precise view of fiction that informs his criticism. One is entitled to disagree, but short of talking him out of his preferences (not likely), disagreeing repeatedly in the same terms is not pushing the ball forward, so to speak.

Do you see any irony in the fact that your single underlying criticism of Wood, repeated ad infinitum, is that he has a single underlying criticism of contemporary literature and repeats it ad infinitum?

"Proper criticism considers what a given work sets out to do. It judges that work by how effectively it carries out its ambition." Is that so? Are all ambitions equal? Why is 'ambition' a less appropriate subject for critical evaluation than execution?

Do you see the further irony in your unwillingness to judge Wood on the basis of what he sets out to do, on his ambition to thoughtfully and consistently apply the (perhaps narrow) literary criteria he has chosen to advocate?

-Chris

Dan Green

Chris: You're right. It is my site. James Wood is a well-known and well-regarded literary critic. I have an obscure and lightly-read weblog. He'll survive my single-minded comments.

Chris

And doubtless Franzen, Wallace, Z. Smith, et al., will survive Wood's single-minded comments. But it seems it's the single-mindedness itself you object to.

The point is your argument is logically inconsistent. The problem with perspectivism, as they say, is that it's just another perspective. The problem with roping "ambition" off from the legitimate domain of the critic, is that it happens in this case to be Wood's "ambition" to criticise the "ambition" of the hysterical realists. In which case your own critical m.o. would appear to leave you without a seat at the table.

However obscure and lightly read you are, you've attracted the man's attention (more power to you), and he has made a good faith (and rather sound) effort to answer your criticism.

The better part of valour would be to admit when you're licked. Don't misunderstand: I don't mean that you ought to bow down to the big name critic who deigns to post on your blog. Only that if you mean for your blog to be a legitimate forum for healthy debate on these matters (perhaps you don't), you ought at least to make a show of considering what the man writes before repeating charges he's already addressed.

Dan Green

You misunderstand my use of the word "ambition." I meant ambition as "goal." To criticize Cormac McCarthy for not being a psychological realist is to misunderstand his goal in this context. He never set out to be one.

Otherwise: Excuse me for having an opinion. I've read almost everything the man has written, and I stand by what I said.

james wood

Dear Dan Green
Your blog is not as obscure as you imagine; and I read you because I take seriously your articulate defence of the postmodern position. As I say, I think there is quite a lot we might agree about; doubtless on the question of 'psychological realism' (not a phrase I care for or have ever used, to my knowledge) we disagree. I've just written about this question for next week's New Republic, and perhaps when this piece comes out we can have a proper discussion. Briefly, I think that 'realism', seen in the broadest sense as Aristotle defined it (and not as merely a nineteenth century invention) is the central language of narrative. It is the lenient tutor that schools its own truants: everything else comes from it. I made this clear in the introduction of my first book of essays, while also arguing that fiction is of course a sublime artifice -- what I called 'the game of not-quite'. This large sense of realism would bring together, say, Shakespeare and Thomas Bernhard's Wittgenstein's Nephew or Beckett's late fiction. Of course, these artists are not doing the same kind of thing, but one of the elements that affects us when we read their works, along with the beauties of language and form and so on, is this basic connection with the human: what Auden called 'a mouth.' It's not about psychological realism, for this phrase makes it seem as if I want all fiction to be a Jamesian examination of the self, and clearly I don't. There are all kind of selves and all kinds of humans in fiction -- including the human voice and intelligence of the novelist him/herself. (As in, say, Sebald or Bernhard, writers I like.) I think Judge Holden, for instance, is a considerable creation, in the Kurtzian mode, and it would be silly to wish him other than what he is. But take McCarthy's new novel. It rips along at great speed but it has no affective power, and hence no aesthetic power apart from an abstract one, and this is because the mode it has chosen -- the thriller mode -- allows no character any important freedom. People die by the dozen but nothing is importantly at stake. And this is what I read for: I need to know what is at stake (morally, aesthetically, philosophically, humanly). The film A Simple Plan, (I think I have the title right) which has the same basic plot as the McCarthy novel, was far more powerful and involving than this new novel just because it introduced the idea of ordinary human frailty.

I think you misunderstood my point about the inflamed rhetoric of Blood Meridian. I wasn't saying that the lack of internal borders blocks the delineation of consciousness (though I suppose it does), but that it makes for a kind of moral muddiness, a lack of lucidity, at the heart of the book. I made this point in connection with what most troubles me about McCarthy as a writer, and that is his tendency to roll everything into a vast bloody myth. He tends to de-theologize theodicy and then re-mystify it, and I think this is obscurantist. You can be a vatic writer, as he is, and still be lucid. He isn't always.

I agree with Chris that one can't -- and in practice, doesn't -- simply review every novel one encounters on the basis of whether they have fulfilled their ambitions. (This is pragmatism, in which each novel is simply 'the story we are telling ourselves at the present moment.') Sometimes their ambitions may seem the wrong ones, or limited ones. I happen to think that the thriller genre is a limited, maimed, reduced thing, and unworthy of a writer of McCarthy's powers. So I think that however well he fulfilled his ambitions -- and it's a very sleek piece of work -- his ambitions deserve censure. Hardy, for instance, was a mythmaker and a bit of an obscurantist in the same way, but he didn't write a pulp thriller. I'm sorry this seems so predictable. I'd point out that my dogmatism seems positively airy and relaxed alongside what I have seen of your dogmatism, which defends again and again a narrow postmodern aesthetic and canon as if we all wanted to bring it down. I don't. I'd rather expand my idea of realism -- to appropriate Bernhard, say -- so as to co-opt and absorb your idea of the postmodern!

birnbaum

I was tempted to follow Wittgenstein's prescription "Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen" — whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent —especially when I read:

"what most troubles me about McCarthy as a writer, and that is his tendency to roll everything into a vast bloody myth. He tends to de-theologize theodicy and then re-mystify it, and I think this is obscurantist. You can be a vatic writer, as he is, and still be lucid. He isn't always."

I guess I should read James's piece again as I have very little idea what the above means. I expect it will be unpacked in some meaningful way in the New Yorker essay on McCarthy.

But in the meantime two things— I don't accept that McCarthy has chosen the thriller mode—whatever that means and I think that is a diversionary issue especially since Wood has already expressed himself on that degraded genre. Also, I think one is on very shakey ground suggesting something has no "affective power." That judgment — the affective power of something, strikes me as, at the heart, deeply subjective.

I want to reiterate what I suggested above albeit in the light of the various remarks in this thread. I think James is tone deaf to the kind of writing that McCarthy presents and, in fact, seems to evidence no faculty or appendage or ability that would acknowledge Cormac McCarthy's prose and narrative viscerally.

Yup, that's what I think.

Anyway, my dog Rosie still remembers James fondly—as do I.

Dan Green

Dear James Wood,

Thank you for your most recent, and very temperate, comment. I would like to keep myself on a temperate track as well.

I need to make this clear: I have found your essays on the novelists you admire to be insightful and in some ways inspiring. In such essays you make the best case for "psychological realism" I have seen. (Since you don't like the term, I will no longer attribute it to you.) In some cases, you have prompted me to seek out writers I had not read before--your essay on Bohumil Hrabal, for example.

Also: I think many of the writers you like are great writers. Henry James is among the two or three greatest novelists who ever lived. I just don't think everyone has to write like James.

As to the role of moral judgments in the criticism of fiction: That's a whole other kettle of fish, which I certainly don't want to stir up in this thread.

I would love to have the discussion you mention. I will try to read the new TNR review and see if I have something intelligent (and temperate) to say about it.

Chris

Dan-

Again, don't misunderstand me: you never need ask excuse for your opinion. But neither need Wood, big name critic or not. You can't get into the game of criticizing people's opinions without it coming back to you. What I am asking, for better or worse, is that you hold yourself to the same critical standard to which you hold Wood and the rest of the world. Every time you reply to a substantive criticism by saying, "Excuse my having an opinion," or "I'm just an obscure lit-blogger," you are doing yourself and all of your fellow lit-bloggers a disservice. Words mean things. If you aren't willing to defend your own with a stronger message than "No one listens to me anyway," you ought not send them out into the world in the first place.

Chris

J. D. Daniels

McCarthy’s “list of those whom he calls the ‘good writers’—Melville, Dostoyevsky, Faulkner—precludes anyone who doesn't ‘deal with issues of life and death.’ Proust and Henry James don't make the cut. ‘I don't understand them,’ he says. ‘To me, that's not literature. A lot of writers who are considered good I consider strange.’”—Richard B. Woodward, “Cormac McCarthy’s Venomous Fiction,” New York Times, 19 April 1992.

I remembered where to find this, but pretended I didn’t: I pretended I was Jonathan, above, who asked, “Is Woods [sic] misrepresenting this remark, or McCarthy [sic] really say it?”, or David Milofsky, who wrote, “I mean, the fact that he says McC once said this (without saying when and where), makes me suspicious. As far as I know, McCarthy's only submitted to two interviews since Blood Meridien [sic] and he didn't make this comment in either one. Of course, Woods [sic] may have some other source in mind that he doesn't mention.”

It took me four seconds to Google “cormac mccarthy interview henry james literature,” all clues provided or implied by the sentence, “McCarthy has never been much interested in consciousness and once declared that as far as he was concerned Henry James wasn’t literature.”

“I've read almost everything the man has written,” Green writes: almost everything, but not the novel in question.

Four whole seconds. What a grueling effort: one requiring a desire to know, instead of merely to yammer.

David Milofsky

Whew, what an exchange, much of which seems to be cross-dueling without responding to what the other person says, scoring points, etc. It seems meaningless to me to talk about McCarthy's work, pro or con, without having read the latest book, which after all Woods is criticizing. For what it's worth, I've read (and reviewed) it and agree with him, but that's not the point either. The idea that a critic should limit him or herself only to those authors with whom he's in philosophical agreement (whatever that might mean) strikes me as questionable. Most of us who review professionally are assigned books, although we may pass on this book or author if we choose. The only real limitation should be that whatever the critic's aesthetic, he/she take the author on his/her own terms. That is, one should review the book the author has written not the one you'd like him to have written. Alas, critics often make that mistake, but having read Woods' review in the NYer, I don't think he did. I think his criticisms of McCarthy were fair, and I say this as an admirer of both McCarthy and many post-modern authors as well. One needn't be in once camp or another when it comes to literature, however it may seem at times.

birnbaum

First, let me say that I have read No Country for Old Men.

Second, I reread James's piece on it last night or this morning, after I was confounded by some of his remarks here. Other than an appreciation of his creating new adjectivic forms as in "granitic" that re-read was not helpful (okay, not entirely true, I was impressed by James's recall of a small descriptive phrase that McCarthy reprises 7 years later).

Unfortunately, I have lent my copy out, so I will have to rely on memory (hah!) as I read Old Men a month or so ago— but what is clearer to me is that the old Sheriff is given short shrift in Wood's view —"and, bringing up the rear, like a flailing old grampus, must be the police. " A good portion of the narration is seen from Sheriff Bell's vantage point. Among other things Bell brings touches of humor to this grim story (no small thing) and, I would argue, much more,

I see a corollary situation that probably all of us face. I think Mahler is no doubt a great composer — I have over the years tried to listen to him. But other than Das Lied von Der Erde, none of his music grabs me. Isn't it that way for everyone with some artist or other?

David Milofsky

I wasn't specifically referring to anyone, but several posts have noted that the writer hadn't read McCarthy's book. You can't really expect to be taken seriously if you haven't even read the book under discussion. As for the sheriff, as far as I'm concerned his centrality in the novel constitutes the real failing of the book. That is, McCarthy kills off the protagonist two-thirds of the way through and the rest is anti-climactic, full of cracker-barrel philosophizing and worse. I don't know if this is why Woods neglected to spend much time on the sheriff or not, but it's puzzling to me why a novelist as skilled as McCarthy would make such a puzzling artistic choice. For what it's worth, however, I agree about Mahler.

Ken Chen

Hi,

I just wanted to chime in and say that I was a regular reader of this blog from its inception but had to stop because I couldn't take all the dogmatism. (And I'm a guy who reads Djuna Barnes, Flann O'Brien, and David Markson!) I actually posted about this in one of your previous posts about Wood, where I noted that you seemed to selectively quote his material and beg the question w/r/t Wood's moral impulses. I've pasted the post below, along with your reply, which you'll note doesn't exactly reason with me, but states your opinions as declarations sent down as Mount Sinai-style declarations. I think what you ignore is that Wood's critiques are largely technical, even if their foundation is moral. Usually when we criticize a critic as dogmatic or moral, we tend to mean that they are censors rather than critics--that they disqualify works based on how the work reduces to easily-ascertainable moral theses, rather than on, say, qualities of style or characterization. Although Wood writes what may be called moral criticism, his criticism never does the former and always calls attention to what most novelists would consider formal devices, such as characterization or style. The morality is a selection-device when it comes to characterization, but I don't see how one wouldn't always already adopt similar criterion as Wood when reviewing certain genres. Although I don't necessarily share Wood's reviewing biases, I would end up using the same approach when, say, reviewing a film like American Beauty or Sideways. Since these films hold themselves out as projects in the discourse of moral enlightenment or realistic characterization, it would be difficult not to point out that they don't perform these tasks very well. And this would be the kind of pragmatic critique that you suggest.

Incidentally, I don't see why we should dislike a critic for displaying harshness or their own subjectivity. The latter implies that such a thing as an "objective" opinion is possible. I don't mean to recite the banality that everything is subjective, but merely suggest that one aim of critical discourse is the same as that of fiction: to display these subjectivities. I'm curious if any of your criticisms would apply to a poet or novelist? Would you ever dislike a novelist simply because his opinion differed from yours?


http://noggs.typepad.com/the_reading_experience/2004/04/it_would_seem_t.html#comments

Well, I'm an admirer of Wood's, so naturally, I disagree with many of your statements. I think that Wood is less similar to Leavis and more like Eliot--and like Eliot, he is a very polarizing critic. It's possible to either applaud his accuracy and analytical precision or to allow that specifically analytical (and, thus, apparently unsympathetic) character of his criticism to fend you off. Thus, Borges said that Eliot was a masterful prose stylist (as, I think, Wood is) but Eliot and Wood are both probably read in much smaller proportion than their accuracy would demand--they have an alienating accuracy.

Also, I think that many of your characterizations are inaccurate--and like the assertions of Wood's that disturb his detractors, they seem to rely a lot on just ad hoc pronouncements. First, I agree that Wood obviously values psychological realism and thinks that the novel is a tool for making selves, but I don't think that this is quite the fault or mania that way you make it out to be. First of all, some of his best reviews are not about psychological novels at all: he praises Hamsun (revealing his appreciation for Kafkaesque non-realism), Momus/Erasmus (a pre-novelistic farce), and W.G. Sebald (what author has less self than Sebald?). Secondly, I think that, although he's very harsh on writers who aren't Chekhov, Wood seems to me to be often harsh but never partisan. What is especially scathing about his critiques is how they are immanent: he often presents an artist's aesthetic as an "argument" and suggests how the author is being aesthetically incoherent. His point isn't that his subject isn't being a good enough Henry James--he isn't being a good enough version of himself. Thirdly, this isn't really a snark-related argument, but it seems odd to dislike an author because one doesn't share their interpretive discourse. I mean it seems like a more appropriate response would be to want to read Wood when we act as participants in the "novel-as-exploration-of-consciousness" discourse and then read with his bracketted -away assumptions in mind when we become participants in other discourses. I don't see any reason why Wood has to like my favorite author; what's more useful is that reading him read his authors is, overall, more beneficial than not reading him. In any case, I'm not sure how you can disagree with Wood without falling into a solipsistic loop--like being intolerant of someone for being intolerant?

Finally, some of your characterizations of Wood seem rather absolute, in the way that you criticize Wood of being absolute. First of all, I think his aims *are* moral but they are not moralistic: his aesthetic is not exclusively judgmental--and its moralism is based on empathy rather than on a pedantic impulse to flog everyone with his own ethical guidelines. Also, his response to writing is almost always explicitly "aesthetic"--take a look at his great Moby Dick review; it's almost entirely about adjectives. Secondly, I think Wood isn't really gushy but he does seem to make efforts to point out when he likes something and what he likes about books he dislikes. I think he's a much better writer when he praises than when he negates: half of THE BROKEN ESTATE are very loving and (intellectually) intimate reviews of Chekhov, Woolf, Mann, Sebald, Hamsun, Melville, and so on.

Anyways, I'm sorry if any of this seems belligerent. Though I have to say, you seem a lot harder on Wood than Wood usually is on authors he dislikes: Wood's pans are at least rational discourse (in the sense that he brings you through his thought process) and he tends to avoid (I could be wrong about this) rhetoric about the fate of the British criticism and snippy asides. Also, it seems sort of funny to end a polemic against a reviewer who likes psychological realism, by psychoanalyzing him!

Posted by: Ken Chen | April 5, 2004 05:40 PM

Ken,

I would make four points about your comment:
1) You speak of Wood's "analytic" skills. I don't think there is much analysis in Wood's criticism. There's a bias--either the book at hand provides a window into consciousness or it doesn't. Then he finds reasons to praise or disparage the book based on this conclusion. If by analysis you mean something like "close reading," I don't see it.

2) Wood is nothing like Eliot. Eliot was the forerunner of New Critical formalism, and as a "moral critic," Wood is very far away from this.

3 It's incoherent to identify an "argument" and then discuss its "aesthetic" qualities. A novel might be aesthetically unsuccessful because it fails aesthetically, but this has nothing to do with its "argument," or vice versa. I would maintain the two things are mutually exclusive.

4)More often than not, Wood doesn't read "his" authors. His more typical mode is to dismiss those who aren't his.

Please feel free to criticize me all you want. I appreciate your response. (Also, in calling Wood an intolerant critic, I deliberately did not say he was personally intolerant. I"m sticking to what I see in his texts.)

Posted by: Daniel Green | April 5, 2004 06:25 PM

Dan Green

J.D. Daniels: The "man" referred to in my comment was James Wood. This was clear from the context--I was replying to the previous comment. You should take more than four seconds to read them.

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On Contemporary Fiction