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The fun stuff, and other essays by James…

The fun stuff, and other essays (original 2012; edition 2012)

by James Wood

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1324135,143 (4)4
Title:The fun stuff, and other essays
Authors:James Wood
Info:New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012.
Collections:Read in 2016

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The fun stuff: and other essays by James Wood (2012)



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Over 20 essays here, mainly literary criticism, which originally appeared in The New Yorker and other places. Enjoyed almost all of these, some of which deepened my awareness of authors I'd read, others enlightened me entirely on a writer I'd not experienced. Pieces that stood out for me were: Thomas Hardy, which convinces me to add to the two novels of his I've read; Robert Alter and The King James Bible, which is simply well done; Edmund Wilson, who I knew by name but little else; and the title essay, The Fun Stuff: Homage to Keith Moon, the only non-literature piece, but one of the best. So, now we'll see if he's convinced me to read War and Peace. The odds may still be long, but one day... ( )
  ThoughtPolice | May 23, 2014 |
bookshelves: essays, fradio, published-2012, radio-4, spring-2014, nonfiction, lit-crit, books-about-books-and-book-shops
Recommended for: BBC Radio Listeners
Read from March 03 to 07, 2014


Description: Highlights from an entertaining and idiosyncratic series of essays from James Wood, the leading literary critic of his generation. It's a collection which ranges widely, from a loving analysis of Keith Moon's drum technique to the intentions, gifts and limitations of some of our most celebrated modern novelists, including Kazuo Ishiguro and Ian McEwan.

photo nonfiction_zps50e8dfae.jpg

Wood analyses the lost genius of Moon and his ability to create magic out of mayhem, relating this to his own experience of learning to play drums as a boy.

2. KAZUO ISHIGURO: NEVER LET ME GO: Wood considers a masterwork that melds sci-fi with literary fiction - a cloning story that 'combines the fantastic and realistic till we can no longer separate them'.

3. MARILYNNE ROBINSON: Wood looks at the religious sensibility of the American author whose Pulitzer Prize winning Gilead was one of the most 'unconventional...popular novels of recent times.'

4. CONTAINMENT: TRAUMA AND MANIPULATION IN IAN McEWAN: Wood admires and critiques the author of Atonement, Enduring Love and On Chesil Beach - 'the great contemporary stager of traumatic contingency as it strikes ordinary lives'.

5. PACKING MY FATHER-IN-LAW'S LIBRARY: Wood describes disposing of his late father in law's library, and considers whether our personal collections of books hide us more than reveal us to our descendants.

Abridged by Eileen Horne
Reader: TBA

Produced by Clive Brill
A Pacificus production for BBC Radio 4.

A whimsy, a ramble, and okay on in the background but did I learn anything WOW or did it have me convinced that this IS made of the fun stuff promised in the title?

Not at all.

I would be mildly furious if I had shelled out for this, however for those lit-crit luvvies it may be worth a go.

Listen Here

aNobii ( )
  mimal | Mar 7, 2014 |
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. ( )
  MSarki | Apr 10, 2013 |
At his best, James Wood is not merely a fine and sensitive reader of fiction. He is also an engaging wordsmith, a champion of neglected masterpieces, and an honest voice pointing to the absence of clothes on the emperor. This collection of Wood’s recent essays shows him in all of his guises.

The title essay, which examines the art and influence of Who drummer Keith Moon (who could have guessed that James Wood was also a drummer?), carries the full flourish of Wood’s turns of phrase and gentle insight. It is a pleasure to read, but somewhat of an anomaly here since all of the remaining essays collected in this volume concern literature. At times Wood returns us to the work of earlier masters of fiction and criticism: Thomas Hardy, George Orwell, Tolstoy, Edmund Wilson. Here he draws upon the best recent biographies as well as the primary texts to paint a fair portrait of his subjects. But still more fascinating are those essays where his focus is almost entirely on the texts, for it is there that his close reading reaps its richest rewards. His essay on W. G. Sebald’s Austerlitz, for example, shines a clear light on what makes that work such an achievement. In similar fashion, his close reading of Ben Lerner’s Leaving the Atocha Station will leave few in doubt of the positive significance of that first novel.

Wood is not afraid to use his position as a much-read critic to redress misreading, as he does when he gently but firmly corrects Zadie Smith’s reading of Joseph O’Neill’s Netherland. He can be withering when his gaze is fixed upon a writer’s oeuvre, as when he calls out the shallowness of Paul Auster’s fiction. But perhaps his most useful role is when he brings attention to the fine writing of those outside the mainstream view, such as Ismail Kadare or László Krasznahorkai.

It is always a pleasure to read a collection of essays from James Wood and to recommend them to others. ( )
  RandyMetcalfe | Jan 7, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0374159564, 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 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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:29 -0400)

In twenty-three passionate, sparkling dispatches--which range over such crucial writers as Thomas Hardy, Leo Tolstoy, Edmund Wilson, and Mikhail Lermontov--literary critic James 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, and Aleksandar Hemon.… (more)

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