Following The Broken Estate, The Irresponsible Self, and How Fiction Works – books that established James Wood as the leading critic of his generation – The Fun Stuff confirms Wood’s pre-eminence, not only as a discerning judge but also as an appreciator of the contemporary novel.
In twenty-three passionate, sparkling 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. The Fun Stuff is indispensable reading for anyone who cares about contemporary literature.
This is a masterclass in the art of reading.
Wood is the most engaging of current commentators on literature.
Impressive breadth of reading (especially contemporary East Europeans here) and perceptively close attention to texts.
It is a pleasure to follow his education and learn something in turn.
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... Wood has this gift.