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How Fiction Works

In the tradition of E M Forster's Aspects of the Novel and Milan Kundera's The Art of the Novel How Fiction Works is a scintillating study of the magic of fiction an analysis of its main elements and a celebration of its lasting power Here one of the most prominent and stylish critics of our time looks i. For 75 pages this was all clang clang clang goes the trolley ding ding ding goes the bell but then it turned a sharp corner and I think I done got throwed off the bus Ow As it rattled off without me I was left to think carefully about what I m doing when I read a novel aside from avoiding the interminable election debates on tv OMG another 3 weeks to go and what I think a novel is doing or supposed to be doing It s good to be made to think about these things But why did I get throwed off the busThis jampacked little book is all about the why of novels and it s got some high standards to apply to both novels and readers so you better shape up you readers you Hey I do mean YOU Yeah That s rightIt s like James Wood expects us to be listening to some random tune and be able to name the bass player and the producer s previous hits and the singer s favourite drugs and where it got to in the charts and its relation to the minor essays of Jean Paul Sartre and Flaubert s left earlobeJames Wood is like the gold standard reader When you read David Foster Wallace you notice that he notices everything I mean everything and notices everything about himself noticing things and so on and so forth James Wood does all that while he reads every single novel Not one word passes casually beneath the Wood eyeballs Every phrase will be cross examined Every paragraph will have bamboo shoved up its fingernails until it confesses where it stands in regard to Stendahl Balzac and Dostoyevsky And Flaubert Frankly I was outclassed I was than a little crushed I was talked down to It had been made clear that I d got on the wrong bus Me Moi As the trolley lurched round another bend I was turning distinctly green It was all going so well when JW was discussing the free indirect style of modern narration which enables an indeterminate locus of reality to emerge which is not the character speaking and not the author either but a fifth dimension euipoised between the two All that was great But then he gets in to character a brief history of consciousness and sympathy and complexity Then the full florid obsessions emerged no 20th century only French and Russians Balzac More Flaubert Pushkin Stendahl Diderot Chekhov Tolstoy Yeah that s right punk All those guys you never read You were going to get round to them but well I don t know but you just never did Well I bet you re regretting that now because you can t talk about fiction without an intimate knowledge of alla those guys Sorry I bet you want to slink off back into the night now donchaGo ahead slinkWhen the 20th century is reluctantly allowed into JW s purview it s Hardy never read him Buddenbrooks never read it Proust same Italo Svevo huh Thomas Pynchon no thanks and Saul Bellow oh I read one by him the wrong one It must be said out loud James Wood is an old school patrician sneerer Even though he s earned the right to sneer a hundred times over there s still no need for it Here s where I gagged If prose is to be written as well as poetry novelists and readers must develop their own third ears We have to read musically testing the rhythm of a sentence listening for the almost inaudible rustle of historical association clinging to the hems of modern words attending to patterns repetitions echoes deciding whether a metaphor is successful and another is not judging how the perfect placement of the right verb or adjective seals a sentence with mathematical finality We must proceed on the assumption that almost all prose popularly acclaimed as beautiful she writes like an angel is nothing of the sort that almost every novelist will at some point be baselessly acclaimed for writing beautifully as almost all flowers are at some point acclaimed for smelling niceIs this not a bit nauseating Get off of your high horse JW Maybe there are 41 other human beings who read the right books with the perfect superconsciousness using their perfect brains bulging with culture in the way that JW advises but the rest of us are real people who sometimes read in the bath with the radio on Some of us have actually not read Flaubert s Sentimental Education Think of that Some of us you may have to lie down for this have no intention of reading Flaubert s Sentimental Education We are the plebs your culture warned you about However at the end of this book we get 20 pages about realism Here James Wood defends the idea that the business of fiction is to get real life in some way onto the printed page Suddenly James Wood is my new best friend Yes It s about time someone stuck it to those old haddocks William Gass and Roland Barthes I love this Realism seem broadly as truthfulness to the way things are cannot be mere verisimilitude cannot be mere lifelikeness or lifesameness but what I call lifeness life on the page life brought to different life by the highest artistry And it cannot be a genre instead it makes the forms of fiction seem like genres For realism of this kind is the origin It teaches everyone else it schools its truantsSo what can I say read the first 75 pages and the last 20 and don t mess with Mr In Between We cannot write about rhythm and not refer to Flaubert and so once again as if unable to stop rereading the old letters of a former lover I return to him Ugh Mate Hunt (Dragonmen, rattled off without me I was left to think carefully about what I m doing when I Junior Hero Blues read a novel aside from avoiding the interminable election debates on tv OMG another 3 weeks to go and what I think a novel is doing or supposed to be doing It s good to be made to think about these things But why did I get throwed off the busThis jampacked little book is all about the why of novels and it s got some high standards to apply to both novels and Banged by Daddys Best Friend readers so you better shape up you Black Gold readers you Hey I do mean YOU Yeah That s OMG! So Taboo! rightIt s like James Wood expects us to be listening to some The Fortune Teller (Constantin Vadim, random tune and be able to name the bass player and the producer s previous hits and the singer s favourite drugs and where it got to in the charts and its Secret Histories (Young Repairman Jack, relation to the minor essays of Jean Paul Sartre and Flaubert s left earlobeJames Wood is like the gold standard Put Me On The Potty Mommy - A Kids Book On Potty Training The Fun Way reader When you Galina read David Foster Wallace you notice that he notices everything I mean everything and notices everything about himself noticing things and so on and so forth James Wood does all that while he You Cant See Your Bones With Binoculars reads every single novel Not one word passes casually beneath the Wood eyeballs Every phrase will be cross examined Every paragraph will have bamboo shoved up its fingernails until it confesses where it stands in جای خالی سلوچ regard to Stendahl Balzac and Dostoyevsky And Flaubert Frankly I was outclassed I was than a little crushed I was talked down to It had been made clear that I d got on the wrong bus Me Moi As the trolley lurched বঙ্গবন্ধু শেখ মুজিবকে ঘিরে কিছু ঘটনা ও বাংলাদেশ round another bend I was turning distinctly green It was all going so well when JW was discussing the free indirect style of modern narration which enables an indeterminate locus of Historys Naughty Bits right punk All those guys you never Triukšmas ir įniršis read You were going to get Below the Surface (Code of Silence, round to them but well I don t know but you just never did Well I bet you Linspired re Fogging Over (Angels Unlimited, regretting that now because you can t talk about fiction without an intimate knowledge of alla those guys Sorry I bet you want to slink off back into the night now donchaGo ahead slinkWhen the 20th century is The Rose of Fire (The Cemetery of Forgotten Books, reluctantly allowed into JW s purview it s Hardy never Lions Arent Scared of Shots read him Buddenbrooks never Crunch! Whole Grain Artisan Chips and Crackers. Low-Fat, Low-Sugar, Low-Salt Snack. Garnish or Croutons. New, Easy, No-roll method. read it Proust same Italo Svevo huh Thomas Pynchon no thanks and Saul Bellow oh I Biology read one by him the wrong one It must be said out loud James Wood is an old school patrician sneerer Even though he s earned the Disciple right to sneer a hundred times over there s still no need for it Here s where I gagged If prose is to be written as well as poetry novelists and Experience Passport readers must develop their own third ears We have to A Shifters Curse (Rouen Chronicles Book 1) read musically testing the Kinky Mom rhythm of a sentence listening for the almost inaudible Hungover (Blurred Lines, rustle of historical association clinging to the hems of modern words attending to patterns Punishment Enema right verb or adjective seals a sentence with mathematical finality We must proceed on the assumption that almost all prose popularly acclaimed as beautiful she writes like an angel is nothing of the sort that almost every novelist will at some point be baselessly acclaimed for writing beautifully as almost all flowers are at some point acclaimed for smelling niceIs this not a bit nauseating Get off of your high horse JW Maybe there are 41 other human beings who Real-Time Marketing & PR read the The Secret Jews right books with the perfect superconsciousness using their perfect brains bulging with culture in the way that JW advises but the Love Arrives in Pieces rest of us are I Am real people who sometimes La ficcion Fidel read in the bath with the Run with Me radio on Some of us have actually not الفن والمجتمع عبر التاريخ - الجزء الأول read Flaubert s Sentimental Education Think of that Some of us you may have to lie down for this have no intention of Dare Mighty Things reading Flaubert s Sentimental Education We are the plebs your culture warned you about However at the end of this book we get 20 pages about BULLDOGS realism Here James Wood defends the idea that the business of fiction is to get Hypnotizing His Sissy Boy 1 real life in some way onto the printed page Suddenly James Wood is my new best friend Yes It s about time someone stuck it to those old haddocks William Gass and Roland Barthes I love this Realism seem broadly as truthfulness to the way things are cannot be mere verisimilitude cannot be mere lifelikeness or lifesameness but what I call lifeness life on the page life brought to different life by the highest artistry And it cannot be a genre instead it makes the forms of fiction seem like genres For The Arbiter and the Mummys Curse realism of this kind is the origin It teaches everyone else it schools its truantsSo what can I say The Thomas Crown Affair read the first 75 pages and the last 20 and don t mess with Mr In Between We cannot write about Quadrivium rhythm and not The Unrepentant refer to Flaubert and so once again as if unable to stop Time Has Come rereading the old letters of a former lover I Princess Natasha return to him Ugh

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Nto the machinery of storytelling to ask some fundamental uestions What do we mean when we say we know a fictional character What constitutes a telling detail When is a metaphor successful Is Realism realistic Why do some literary conventions become dated while others stay freshJames Wood ranges widely f. What I love about books like this is that they are filled with gobbets I rewatched The History Boys also referenced at one point not too long ago including a casual reference to the ridiculousness that is Boney M and allow me to dip into books I would never consider reading or had up to that point never considered reading without necessarily looking to agree or disagree with what is being said instead just soaking it all in Narrating Detail Character check check check A Brief History of Consciousness che eck ie the point at which things took a very philosophical turn and my mantra became Just keep reading just keep reading pretty much reaffirming the fact that though I enjoyed J M Coetzee s novel on Dostoevsky The Master of Petersburg it is unlikely that I will ever actually read any Dostoevsky devastating I know But it becomes readable again long before the endFYI if I don t see Flaubert referenced in any book ever again it ll be too soon Had I been playing a drinking game and taken a shot every time Flaubert pops up I d have been dead drunk long before the last page Or just dead I m worried I ve developed some sort of psychological complex Dictionary Of Dreams realistic Why do some literary conventions become dated while others stay freshJames Wood The Love of a Latino ranges widely f. What I love about books like this is that they are filled with gobbets I Other Days, Other Eyes rewatched The History Boys also Deception Island referenced at one point not too long ago including a casual The Family reference to the The First Partition of Poland ridiculousness that is Boney M and allow me to dip into books I would never consider The Hero of Varay reading or had up to that point never considered Blackmailed By Daddy reading just keep उरलं सुरलं [Urla Surla] reading pretty much Cock Tales reaffirming the fact that though I enjoyed J M Coetzee s novel on Dostoevsky The Master of Petersburg it is unlikely that I will ever actually Son of the Hero read any Dostoevsky devastating I know But it becomes The Alien Jigsaw readable again long before the endFYI if I don t see Flaubert Towards a Comprehensive Theory of Human Learning referenced in any book ever again it ll be too soon Had I been playing a drinking game and taken a shot every time Flaubert pops up I d have been dead drunk long before the last page Or just dead I m worried I ve developed some sort of psychological complex

James Wood é 0 read

Rom Homer to Make Way for Ducklings from the Bible to John le Carré and his book is both a study of the techniues of fiction making and an alternative history of the novel Playful and profound How Fiction Works will be enlightening to writers readers and anyone else interested in what happens on the pag. I thought this book would be written with a writerly slant but no More with a readerly slant turns out Still as a writer wading into novel writing you can pick up a thing or two Up to you I imagine Wood thinking He s about educating readersThe good thing This is mostly approached in layman s terms It does not come across as high falutin ivory tower show off talk that is when authors have an audience of fellow professors in mind The other good thing Wood uses so many excerpts by way of example you will find yourself wanting to read some of the books he alludes to For me that would be books like The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis Saramago Sabbath s Theater Roth Seize the Day Bellow The Waves Woolf The Rainbow Lawrence and Wittgenstein s Nephew Bernhard to name a fewIt s always embarrassing to see how not so well read you are when you read books about reading isn t itAnyway the sections of the book give you an idea about where James Wood goes with this Narrating Flaubert and Modern Narrative Flaubert and the Rise of the Flaneur Detail Character A Brief History of Consciousness Sympathy and Complexity Language Dialogue and Truth Convention RealismThe Realism discussion at the end is amusing Nobody uite agrees on what is real and many newer writers like to pile on and dis realism in very realistic ways Whatever I leave that to the philosophers who also disagree on what a chair is This is in the end a book you ll enjoy if you like reading about reading It s big print it s fast and it drops names and uotes like a baby drops food from the high chair What s not to like


10 thoughts on “How Fiction Works

  1. says:

    “When I talk about free indirect style I am really talking about point of view and when I talk about point of view I am really tal

  2. says:

    Critics often get a bad reputation and likely deservingly so I often reflect on a uote by Macedonio Fernández that a critic knows nothing of what perfect literature is but only what it is not and especially while writing on Goodreads am constantly haunted by Susan Sontag's Against Interpretation I tend to think of critics as being

  3. says:

    For 75 pages this was all clang clang clang goes the trolley ding ding ding goes the bell but then it turned a sh

  4. says:

    What I love about books like this is that they are filled with gobbets I rewatched The History Boys also referenced at one point not too long ago including a casual reference to the ridiculousness that is Boney M and allow m

  5. says:

    This is a book I've read re read and re re read I go back to it freuently whenever I've finished one of the titles from its bibliography or just to revisit Wood's various topics Deceptively simple and uickly read If allowed HFW will inform any novel you read It is not comprehensive in its scope; it omits topics

  6. says:

    I kind of hate reading books of this sort as they leave me with a heightened awareness of style character rhythm etc that makes it difficult to

  7. says:

    A verymost entertaining and informative book about books and how writers make them from words placed in different orders Split into handy chapters but written as one lengthy essay with numerical subheadings Wood teaches us things from Flaubert

  8. says:

    021116 this is gently deceptive as a title this is not how 'fiction' works but how a 'sort' of fiction works which happens to be his 'sort' and likely to be the 'sort' that interests someone who would read a book like this on the one acknowledged classics admired contemporary widely sourced on the other neither breathtakingly popular which might garner readers for possibly non literary reasons such as this movie or th

  9. says:

    I thought this book would be written with a writerly slant but no More with a readerly slant turns out Still as a writer wading into novel writing you can pick up a thing or two Up to you I imagine Wood thinking He's abou

  10. says:

    Between the years 1910 and 1915 R A Torrey and A C Dixon compiled a series of books of essays entitled The Fundamentals With this series Torrey and Dixon set out to give the true Christian absolutely everything that she needed to know in order to have as complete a picture of the Creation as possible Perhaps in the knowledge that they had set for themselves an impossible task Torrey and Dixon contented themselves with

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Tessa Young is an 18 year old college student with a simple life, excellent grades, and a sweet boyfriend She always has things planned out ahead of time, until she meets a rude boy named Harry, with too many tattoos and piercings who shatters her plans.