He focuses in on Flaubert's judgmentalism, the sense that he really doesn't love his characters. In a fine jest, More writes that ambassadors, unaware of Utopian customs, once arrived at the island richly dressed in gold chains. In other words, one wants Wood reading over one's shoulder, and for a reviewer, that may be the highest possible praise. Despite his excessive focus on details, which leads him to overvalue writers such as Bellow or Woolf, Wood is a master of straightforward realist criticism -- there are times where you could almost mistake him for like a reaaaaaallly good book reviewer -- that nonetheless incorporates at a slight remove all of the best aspects of high-end literary theory. James Wood is a remarkable literary critic. We approach fiction with a belief it's not real, but we can overcome this belief, partly or wholly, as we become familiar with and comfortable in the world the author has created. We get the mind anyway by a sense of a person's actions, and the only gain detailing the contents of a character's mind is the imprint on it of an author's style - there is hardly anything mimetic about this.
James Wood is not religious himself, from what I understand, but, from what I've seen so far, gives a sensitive and thoughtful look at religion and faith in literature. Round 2 DeLillo talking about his book in an interview ~ The last half century has been an enormously complex period — a strange spin-out experience, filled with danger and change. The criteria of acceptance of the offering are as transient as the stories themselves. Still, I don't like Mrs. Third, sanctioned truth must imply the dominance of the church's truths over the state's, and the church's struggle to maintain its authority over the state. For example, Luther felt that the Eucharist, which commemorates Christ's last supper, had become a superstition. .
The secular argument against More can match the religious argument for More only if it too deploys transhistorical and universal categories. Instead, it seems to be a case where a critical theory has simply strangled the critic's own ability to experience doubleness, to enjoy the make believe aspect of literary entertainment, to defer seriousness and to embrace fiction as if it could be fun. A young man - he was born in 1965, for God's sake - he already seems to have read everything worth reading. Within the world of the imagination, I don't see why an author can't write about any subject matter they like, whether realism or fantasy, whether human or superhuman, whether inward or outward, whether serious or comic. Stories and the words from which they are constituted are too precious to be treated as arbitrary and isolated ciphers. A narrative appears to be a communication between an express or implied author and a reader. The only other interaction between human and supernatural is for the humans to be passive carriers of the supernaturals or souls between generations.
It lay in the systematic withdrawal of Scripture from the people: psalms had been reduced to one- or two-verse extracts; at the Eucharist, the canticles had been starved to only one; priests were preaching fewer sermons; the amount of Scripture read publicly was in decline. Matt Shay sat in the terminal of the airport in Tucson and listened to announcements bouncing off the walls. On one issue More was right: Luther's belief that faith alone, without good works, justified one in the eyes of God was a cruelty that not only demanded an inhuman mental loyalty, but that, brought to its logical end, abolished the purpose of Christian conduct on earth. But to argue that a saint could have acted differently is always to argue that he should have acted differently; it is to argue with the church that blesses his actions as deeds outside history and beyond the fait accompli. Heretical books were being imported from the Continent. For example, If Rob Lowe, when asked a question, said 'yap' just one more time like a little lap dog barking at the postman I was all set to fly to Washington myself and punch him in the face. To read James Wood is to be shocked into both thinking and feeling how great our debt to the novel is.
Waywardness worked well for Woolf because she had a brilliant mind, but for the rest of us it can be an embarrassment. To allow fiction to be called a religion threatens its destruction by ignoring its core of ambiguity and uncertainty. Wood has somehow, impossibly, not written an essay on the greatest English-language novelist, but I'm pretty sure that such an essay would actually tell us more about Joyce, literature, and life itself than all that Derrida + the Yale deconstructionist crew have said about Joyce, combined. Will continue my comments here as I sporadically read on. What is its relevance to fiction and culture in non-Christian societies? Published when he was thirty-three, The Broken Estate is the first book of essays by the man who would become one of America's most esteemed literary critics.
It will accommodate large themes and whole landscapes of experience. That is to say, the religious defense of More issues from one belief system, and the secular argument against him issues from another, and these two systems of thought are still at war. The miracle of this sort of criticism is three-fold. Can you point me to a line where you think that's happening? The essay is a review of Peter Ackroyd's biography of Sir Thomas. It is jarringly distinct from the other essays and belongs to be in entirely other collection, if not on its own. The church did not burn people, replied More; the state burned them.
I can't recall another time I managed to agree with someone so often, but felt the need to disavow us both based on their method of delivery. More needs to be said about how the novel as a genre broke away from the immediacy of the theatrical stage. You'll generally get more out of them when you've read the novels he's citing. The introductory essay was my favorite passage in this book. Whatever the explanation, the spirit of Utopia, whether comic or tragic, was left behind by More. Second, Wood loves the prose of Hemingway enough even as a reduced artist in Wood's eyes that he has a ready contrast for Lawrence. Wood puts Bloom's work in context with a brief discussion of how other schools of criticism, such as New Criticism and New Historicism, view Shakespeare.
The tiniest flickering of a tragic blasphemy, a yearning to be other than we are, is what enriches Utopia and gives it its air of mournful surmise. This is the only kind of belief that makes sense, the revolutionary kind. The novel is here, the novel exists to give us a form that is fully equal to the sweeping realities of a given period. James Wood is a prickly critic and fond of sweeping judgments, but I still like him, and I liked this collection although some essays far more than others, hence the three stars. Realism is not a prerequisite of fiction. Paranoia must necessarily do this to fiction, for it silences judgment. Not as good as Eagleton in this space, as I read it.