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The Irresponsible Self: On Laughter and the Novel

by

The Irresponsible Self: On Laughter and the Novel Cover

 

Review-A-Day

"Wood employs a remarkable understanding of how fiction works, and how it works on us the readers. The depth of his reading and the acuity of his observations make this a tough, enlightening book. (Which is not to say that Wood himself is never amusing; he has his Dale Peck moments. He writes, for instance, of Tom Wolfe's books and their 'immense twisted colons of plot.') In this, his second book of criticism, Wood approaches literature with such absolute passion that in the end you forgive him anything." Anna Godbersen, Esquire (read the entire Esquire review)

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

"James Wood has been called our best young critic. This is not true. He is our best critic; he thinks with a sublime ferocity."--Cynthia Ozick

Following the collection The Broken Estate--which established James Wood as the leading critic of his generation--The Irresponsible Self confirms Wood's preeminence, not only as a discerning judge but also as an appreciator of contemporary novels.

In twenty-three passionate, sparkling dispatches, he effortlessly connects his encyclopedic, passionate understanding of the literary canon with an equally earnest and appreciative view of the most discussed authors writing today, including Franzen, Pynchon, Rushdie, DeLillo, Naipaul, David Foster Wallace, and Zadie Smith.

This collection includes Wood's famous and controversial attack on "hysterical realism", and his sensitive but unsparing examinations of White Teeth and Brick Lane. The Irresponsible Self is indispensable reading for anyone who cares about modern fiction.

"Inimitable...He has not only a well-tuned ear for prose but a remarkable ability to convey how novelistic language transubstantiates life into literature...Wood's essays...vibrate with the difficult, serious pleasure that literature uniquely provides."--A.O. Scott, New York Times Book Review

"Wood writes with such felicity and zeal that one feels neither the inclination nor the possibility of disagreeing with him...[His] enthusiasm provides such an attractive alternative to the truculence of Dale Peck, and the bloodlessness of 'in-house' academic criticism."--Robert McFarlane, The Times Literary Supplement

James Wood was the chief literary critic of The Guardian and is a senior editor at The New Republic. His previous work includes The Book Against God (Picador, 2004).

Review:

"[Wood writes] with magisterial sweep and terrific intensity....Most compelling is the way his own style swells and contracts with his subject matter..." Publishers Weekly

Review:

"[A] provocative gathering of 21 recent (1999-2003) reviews....A miscellany...and an unusually rich and satisfying one." Kirkus Reviews

Review:

"Wood...writes with exquisite sensitivity and stirring acuity about two dozen diverse writers...in sterling essays as voluptuous in style as they are clarion in thought." Donna Seaman, Booklist

Synopsis:

In 23 passionate, sparkling dispatches, Wood defends what he calls "secular comedy" — human, tragicomic, forgiving, bound up with the very origins of the novel — against the narrower "religious comedy" of satire and farce, which is corrective, punitive, and theatrical.

Synopsis:

"James Wood has been called our best young critic. This is not true. He is our best critic; he thinks with a sublime ferocity."--Cynthia Ozick

Following the collection The Broken Estate--which established James Wood as the leading critic of his generation--The Irresponsible Self confirms Wood's preeminence, not only as a discerning judge but also as an appreciator of contemporary novels.

In twenty-three passionate, sparkling dispatches, he effortlessly connects his encyclopedic, passionate understanding of the literary canon with an equally earnest and appreciative view of the most discussed authors writing today, including Franzen, Pynchon, Rushdie, DeLillo, Naipaul, David Foster Wallace, and Zadie Smith.

This collection includes Wood's famous and controversial attack on "hysterical realism", and his sensitive but unsparing examinations of White Teeth and Brick Lane. The Irresponsible Self is indispensable reading for anyone who cares about modern fiction.

Synopsis:

James Wood's first book of essays, The Broken Estate, established him as the leading critic of his generation, one whose judgments "are distinguished by their originality and precision, the depth of reading that informs them, and the metaphorical richness of their language" (Harper's). Its successor, The Irresponsible Self, confirms Wood's preeminence, not only as a discerning judge but also as an appreciator of novels, with a special interest in the ways they make us laugh. In twenty-three passionate, sparkling dispatches, he defends what he calls "secular comedy"-human, tragicomic, forgiving, bound up with the very origins of the novel -against the narrower "religious comedy" of satire and farce, which is corrective, punitive, and theatrical. Ranging over such crucial comic writers as Cervantes, Shakespeare, Dostoevsky, Waugh, Bellow, and Naipaul, Wood offers a broad history of comedy while examining each chosen writer with his customary care and intense focus. This collection (which includes Wood's much-discussed attack on "hysterical realism") is indispensable reading for anyone who cares about modern fiction or criticism today.

About the Author

James Wood was the chief literary critic of The Guardian and is a senior editor at The New Republic. His previous work includes The Book Against God (Picador, 2004).

Product Details

ISBN:
9780374177379
Subtitle:
On Laughter and the Novel
Author:
Wood, James
Author:
Wood, James
Publisher:
Picador
Location:
New York
Subject:
Fiction
Subject:
Essays
Subject:
Humor
Subject:
Comedy
Subject:
General
Copyright:
Edition Number:
1st ed.
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
June 1, 2004
Binding:
Electronic book text in proprietary or open standard format
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
336
Dimensions:
8.29 x 5.74 x 0.835 in

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Related Subjects

Humanities » Literary Criticism » General

The Irresponsible Self: On Laughter and the Novel Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$16.50 In Stock
Product details 336 pages Farrar Straus Giroux - English 9780374177379 Reviews:
"Review A Day" by , "Wood employs a remarkable understanding of how fiction works, and how it works on us the readers. The depth of his reading and the acuity of his observations make this a tough, enlightening book. (Which is not to say that Wood himself is never amusing; he has his Dale Peck moments. He writes, for instance, of Tom Wolfe's books and their 'immense twisted colons of plot.') In this, his second book of criticism, Wood approaches literature with such absolute passion that in the end you forgive him anything." (read the entire Esquire review)
"Review" by , "[Wood writes] with magisterial sweep and terrific intensity....Most compelling is the way his own style swells and contracts with his subject matter..."
"Review" by , "[A] provocative gathering of 21 recent (1999-2003) reviews....A miscellany...and an unusually rich and satisfying one."
"Review" by , "Wood...writes with exquisite sensitivity and stirring acuity about two dozen diverse writers...in sterling essays as voluptuous in style as they are clarion in thought."
"Synopsis" by , In 23 passionate, sparkling dispatches, Wood defends what he calls "secular comedy" — human, tragicomic, forgiving, bound up with the very origins of the novel — against the narrower "religious comedy" of satire and farce, which is corrective, punitive, and theatrical.
"Synopsis" by ,
"James Wood has been called our best young critic. This is not true. He is our best critic; he thinks with a sublime ferocity."--Cynthia Ozick

Following the collection The Broken Estate--which established James Wood as the leading critic of his generation--The Irresponsible Self confirms Wood's preeminence, not only as a discerning judge but also as an appreciator of contemporary novels.

In twenty-three passionate, sparkling dispatches, he effortlessly connects his encyclopedic, passionate understanding of the literary canon with an equally earnest and appreciative view of the most discussed authors writing today, including Franzen, Pynchon, Rushdie, DeLillo, Naipaul, David Foster Wallace, and Zadie Smith.

This collection includes Wood's famous and controversial attack on "hysterical realism", and his sensitive but unsparing examinations of White Teeth and Brick Lane. The Irresponsible Self is indispensable reading for anyone who cares about modern fiction.

"Synopsis" by ,
James Wood's first book of essays, The Broken Estate, established him as the leading critic of his generation, one whose judgments "are distinguished by their originality and precision, the depth of reading that informs them, and the metaphorical richness of their language" (Harper's). Its successor, The Irresponsible Self, confirms Wood's preeminence, not only as a discerning judge but also as an appreciator of novels, with a special interest in the ways they make us laugh. In twenty-three passionate, sparkling dispatches, he defends what he calls "secular comedy"-human, tragicomic, forgiving, bound up with the very origins of the novel -against the narrower "religious comedy" of satire and farce, which is corrective, punitive, and theatrical. Ranging over such crucial comic writers as Cervantes, Shakespeare, Dostoevsky, Waugh, Bellow, and Naipaul, Wood offers a broad history of comedy while examining each chosen writer with his customary care and intense focus. This collection (which includes Wood's much-discussed attack on "hysterical realism") is indispensable reading for anyone who cares about modern fiction or criticism today.

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