Sunday, July 20, 2008

Writing About Writing About Writing!

In "How Fiction Works", James Wood's newest collection of essays - 123 numbered mini-essays strong - Woods again tackles the question of what makes a novel a novel, along with the related question of what makes a great novel, great. After reading the review Saturday in the preview Sunday Times, I managed to acquire a copy today and have just finished consuming in it one guilty gulp.

Below is a quote from reviewer Gideon Lewis-Kraus about what James Wood has achieved.

His initial focus is on "free indirect style," whereby the narrator moves the story along through a character's voice such that "we see things through the character's eyes and language but also through the author's eyes and language. We inhabit omniscience and partiality at once." This is the essence of fiction-making: We readers know that an author has invented this character, but we also feel as though the character exists somewhere outside and beyond the author's invention. We are divided between what we know to be fake and what we nevertheless momentarily postulate as real. Good characters promise us that their invented freedom has meaning, and we react to them accordingly. (Wood, in this way, pretends to write about books while writing about life.)

The key point here is that Woods writes about books in order to write about life and that's why everyone should read him.

My review is simpler.

Read this book.

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