The Fun Stuff: And Other Essays

The Fun Stuff And Other Essays 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 preeminence not only

  • Title: The Fun Stuff: And Other Essays
  • Author: JamesWood
  • ISBN: 9780374159566
  • Page: 333
  • Format: Hardcover
  • 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 preeminence, 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 HaFollowing 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 preeminence, 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, Leon Tolstoy, Edmund Wilson, and Mikhail Lermontov Wood offers a panoramic look at the modern novel He effortlessly connects his encyclopedic, passionate understanding of the literary canon with an equally in depth analysis of the most important authors writing today, including Cormac McCarthy, Lydia Davis, Aleksandar Hemon, and Michel Houellebecq 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.

    527 Comment

    • M. Sarki says:

      This was well-written and engaging. I like James Wood. I wouldn't call his work "amazing" but certainly well worth the time to read him. He writes in an easy manner and seems quite personable which I always think is a good thing unless you are somebody like Thomas Bernhard and you have a bone to pick and then a certain amount of rancor is required.

    • Tuck says:

      oh my my, though i DO have quite a big disagreement with james wood about his lack of charity, seemingly cruelty just for its sake, and his seeming rigorousness unless it inconveniently disagrees with his thesis, this collection is utterly captivating, informative, funny, and synthetic.has in-depth essays/reviews (though mostly on just one title of author's, not a comprehensive look) of familiar and loved books by usual suspects: hemon, lydia davis, geoff dyer, norman rush, cormac mccarthy, edmu [...]

    • Bart says:

      After a brief foray into something less with How Fiction Works, James Wood returns to top form with this collection of critical essays he wrote between 2004 and 2011. We are lucky to have him.He is best when he satirizes authors, and he is best at it because he reviews authors more than individual works, which is not to say that he reviews their biographies very much at all. His criticism is the neat trick of including only what is found in the works themselves, or is found to have influenced th [...]

    • Joseph Raffetto says:

      Near the end of these twenty-plus essays I flashed back to being in college in the early 1980s and discovering Garcia Marquez, Borges, John Fowles, Andre Gide, Robbe-Grillet, Italo Calvino, Philip K. Dick and on and on. Amazing, fascinating, cutting-edge, avant-garde literature endures with new writers and their works continue to fill an artistic literary void. This book is one place to fill that emptiness.The Fun Stuff starts off a little off-beat with a homage to Keith Moon’s early success f [...]

    • Franc says:

      In Whit Stillman’s film Metropolitan, one of his characters states proudly during one of the film’s interminable cocktail parties, “I don't read novels. I prefer good literary criticism. That way you get both the novelists' ideas as well as the critics' thinking.” It’s of course an absurd moment, but I’ve always imagined that James Wood’s criticism would be just the sort he had in mind. The essays in this collection are so compelling and comprehensive, I don’t think I actually ne [...]

    • Mary Ronan Drew says:

      Keith Moon is not one of my favorite people. But James Wood is, so when I borrowed from the library his new book, The Fun Stuff and Other Essays, thinking it was essays of literary criticism, which it is, mostly, I read the first essay in the book, the title essay, even though it's about Keith Moon. If you had asked me a week ago who he was I might possibly have been able to bring up "a rock musician," but I might not. What instrument he played and for what group - blank. . . .To read the rest o [...]

    • Kent Winward says:

      Even when he is being harsh, Wood can be enjoyable. He skewers Paul Auster, but you have to admit that his critique rings true. Wood has the ultimate skill of a critic to say something seemingly positive and turn it into a devastating critique. Oddly his critiques of Auster, McEwan and McCarthy seem to be that they are just a little too polished for their own good. I'm intrigued to go back and re-read How Fiction Works to compare it to his critique of other authors.The best part about books like [...]

    • Rick says:

      James Wood is probably my favorite literary critic writing today. His most recent book The Fun Stuff collects a series of essays written from 2004 to 20011 the vast majority of the essays are intelligent, literate considerations of a host of authors. Wood writes about Tolstoy, Thomas Hardy, Geoff Dyer and Cormac McCarthy. If you want a good list of authors to read a quick glance at the title page will give you a year's supply of recommendations. Wood has read everything by everyone or so it seem [...]

    • Abby says:

      I think I love James Wood so much because we have identical taste. I too love Tolstoy and Lydia Davis and Marilynne Robinson! I too think Paul Auster is shallow! I too find Ian McEwan predictably manipulative! It's just enchantingly solipsistic to read a critic who confirms everything you already believe. A charming collection, according to me. Gold stars for Wood and for me for thinking like him. Right? That's what criticism is for, isn't it?

    • Gish Jen says:

      I don't always love what Wood loves. For example, give me Out Stealing Horses over I Curse the River of Time any day. Still: so smart, so articulate, so patient, so revealing. This is not only a must read, imho, but a must re-read.

    • Pat says:

      Good news first - If you decide to tackle this book it's a safe bet you'll benefit because Wood might be one of the most well read people you'll ever encounter. He'll likely expose you to writers and books that might otherwise escape your attention. Of the twenty three authors featured in this feast for the mind, nine were names unknown to me. Among that group, the next new author I'm going to try - based on Wood's glowing endorsement - is Lydia Davis.Bad news next - If you share even a [...]

    • Steve says:

      There is something truly incredible about spending time with an astute and intelligent reader of literature. I haven't read all the authors and novels Wood discusses in this collection of essays, and I don't read a ton of literary criticism (not since I left grad school, and it was a different kind of criticism), but it matters little. Reading Wood reminds one of the joy of literature if you really take the time to observe and think about how a work of fiction works. And sometimes you end up adm [...]

    • Jay Daze says:

      By a not so fun guy. I enjoy me some critism but Wood's tone - not negative, but just sort of a general feel of dreary seriousness - ground me down. I might come back to it for specific topics.

    • Wendy Liu says:

      Now I just want to read everything else he's ever written

    • Jakey Gee says:

      Very good - and more enjoyable than 'The Broken Estate'.Calling it 'The Fun Stuff' is, of course, a bit of a knowing Trades Descriptions Act breach ('the fun stuff' refers to Keith Moon's irrepressible, improvising drumming style, which is the off-topic subject of the first essay). These essays are (as ever) demanding. They aren't all that fun. Actually, what worked with this one is that the focus is much more on contemporary-ish (or at least on 20th century) literature. And the less bloody anti [...]

    • Tucker Stone says:

      A good rule of thumb is that a critic who claims that it's "easy" to write negative reviews is a critic who can't write negatively very well (and about half the time, can't write positively either), and despite his high profile as the New Yorker book critic many are eager to please, James Wood has sort of become one of those guys: he can write about the good stuff, but when he's steamed up, back away. (This wasn't always true, but in recent years, it does seem to have become the case.) Properly [...]

    • John says:

      Wood has a reputation for being a harsh reviewer, and certainly he can be unforgiving of what he sees as a book's shortcomings. But he is never mean, or destructive for the sake of being destructive, and he is remarkably good at giving his reader a sense of both what HE wanted from the book, and what he thinks the AUTHOR was trying to accomplish, evaluating both how well he or she did that and how worthwhile the effort was in the first place. To do that, he moves very smoothly between a focused, [...]

    • Benoit Lelièvre says:

      For the first time since James Wood started publishing essays, the essays of THE FUN STUFF are collected and not linked by a unifying frame of reference. That both has pros and cons, but Wood is so good at explaining different aspects of a problematic through various essays that you feel something is missing here. Great pieces, but this time, the end result amounts to less than their sum.The essays about Keith Moon, Kazuo Ishiguro and Cormac McCarthy were both engaging, precise, passionate and e [...]

    • A.S. Patric says:

      James Wood might wear the modern attire of a critic but his soul is made of more medieval weave. Chainmail? In any case, he probably deserves what might be more appropriate clothes for the kind of English King, who has both the right, and eager will, to order the heads of wives (or otherwise) to roll before the axe. More often than not, it’s an exhilarating spectacle. Wood makes such eloquent pronouncements, his judgements so magnificently far-seeing and sensible, you don’t mind when you occ [...]

    • Terrol Williams says:

      Wood is that guy who has read everything--no, seriously, everything--and can speak with authority on all of it. You listen to him and are intimidated, bewildered, and often lost, but always you leave a conversation with him thinking a little more and a little better about what you are reading and considering. You don't always like him, but you always want to be more like him.First and last essays here are especially magnificent as they aren't about writers you have never read (like most of the r [...]

    • Holly says:

      Anyone who, like myself, turns directly to The Critics in each New Yorker issue will be familiar with many of these pieces, but they're worth re-reading. I'm reminded to read Lydia Davis, my appreciation for Norman Rush is renewed, and I still get a laugh from the Paul Auster pastiche.In addition to his other critical insights and generally-encyclopedic knowledge Wood writes so well on theology. As Laura Miller has pointed out he is the master of the quote (i.e pulling out the most representativ [...]

    • Anita says:

      James Wood's eloquence and syntactical genius makes me want to fall in line with all of his opinions, but I actually only agree with about half of them. I read these in one long binge read, and certain tics he has - overuse of "antiquarianism" and pointing out authors' use of free indirect discourse - became quite noticeable. Brilliant essays on Keith Moon (!), W.G. Sebald's Austerlitz, Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me go, Cormac McCarthy's The Road, Aleksander Hemon, Joseph O'Neill, Richard Yates, [...]

    • Alan Gerstle says:

      James Wood is a literary critic who is not part of the academic industry. He's also smart and likes literature. I agree with his analyses and assessments for the most part. When I don't find his analyses particularly perspicacious is when my opinion is different (and therefore more prescient) than his (only kidding). To provide one example of his style, he critiques "The Road" by Cormac McCarthy, and argues that it is the first true "successful" post-apocalyptic novel. His argument is insightful [...]

    • Lillian says:

      In twenty-five passionate and sensitive essays, James Wood offers his view of the contemporary novel. Always cogent, erudite and insightful he offers an in-depth analysis of some of the most important contemporary authors such as Lydia Davis, Paul Auster, Michael Houellebecq, Kazuo Ishiguro, and Cormac McCarthy (What makes a good post apocalyptic novel anyway?), as well as Leo Tolstoy and Thomas Hardy among others. Wood is not always complimentary but he is unfailingly gentle in his assessments. [...]

    • Len Toomey says:

      I assumed literary criticism was bound to rattle around inside a story poking holes through intention and dreaming up motivation. That it would turn a story into psychiatry and ground it down into loose mush. But this doesn't. It reveals the world as a sea of connections, of influences and interests, and follows those connections wherever they go. It’s not the stuff that you want to read, but it makes you want to read more, and more intentionally and wider and better. Like diving deeper into a [...]

    • Peter Mcloughlin says:

      I like reading literary criticism sometimes not only does it give me the ability to seem like I've read an author someone mentions at a party but I actually may pick up books by said authors. It is a great way to discover new literature and seek it out. It also helps in finding out what to avoid sometimes because of the critics recommendation sometimes contrary to that recommendation. I liked the criticism of Wood. I think our tastes overlap a great deal. He writes well and is very perceptive wh [...]

    • GONZA says:

      As said before, for me few things are better than a book about books, plus I've already read many of the books the author was writing about, and the other titles I wrote down for the future, because you never know and ".e night is dark and full of terror" :)Come giá detto, per me ci sono poche cose migliori di un libro che parla di libri e inoltre molti di questi li conoscevo bene quindi ero felice, gli altri titoli me li sono scritti perché "winter is coming".

    • Susan Steggall says:

      I have to confess I bought this book in much anticipation, knowing something of Woods' reputation as a renowned writer of critical essays. While I found the writing excellent and many of the ideas challenging I gave up on the book about three-quarters of the way through. Although entitled 'The Fun Stuff', it should read 'Men's Fun Stuff' as apart from a couple of passing references to, I think, Joan Didion, the entire pantheon of women writers simply does not exist in James Woods' world.

    • Tate Quinton says:

      The best english language literary critic writing today. He is known as a advocate for non magical realism but tries to appraise each novel he reviews on its own merits and what the author was trying to accomplish. He is a Edmund Wilson who values the aesthetics of a novel more than its historical and sociological importance.

    • Kallie says:

      Wood is fun stuff himself. I enjoy his writing, critiques, and recommendations (especially for writers I haven't tried yet). He always backs up his opinion with close observation and analysis of what he reads. And he knows the literary work he discusses so comprehensively. He is a true scholar and intellectual.

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