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The selected essays of James Wood - our greatest living literary critic and author of How Fiction Works 'James Wood is a close reader of genius... By turns luscious and muscular, committed and disdaining, passionate and minutely considered' John Banville James Wood is one of the leading critics of the age, and here, for the first time, are his selected essays. From the career-defining 'Hysterical Realism' to his more personal reflections on family, religion and sensibility, Serious Noticing offers a comprehensive overview of his writing over the last twenty years. These essays offer more than a viewpoint - they show how to bring the eye of critical reading to life as a whole. 'James Wood is one of literature's true lovers, and his deeply felt, contentious essays are thrilling in their reach and moral seriousness' Susan Sontag
In this remarkable blend of memoir and criticism, James Wood, the noted contributor to the New Yorker, has written a master class on the connections between fiction and life. He argues that of all the arts, fiction has a unique ability to describe the shape of our lives and to rescue the texture of those lives from death and historical oblivion. The act of reading is understood here as the most sacred and personal of activities, and there are brilliant discussions of individual works--among others, Chekhov's story The Kiss, The Emigrants, by W. G. Sebald, and The Blue Flower, by Penelope Fitzgerald. Wood reveals his own intimate relationship with the written word: we see the development of a boy from the provinces growing up in a charged Christian environment, the secret joy of his childhood reading, the links he draws between reading and blasphemy, or between literature and music. The final section discusses fiction in the context of exile and homelessness. More than a tightly argued little book by a man commonly regarded as our finest living critic, The Nearest Thing to Life is an exhilarating personal account that reflects on, and embodies, the fruitful conspiracy between reader and writer (and critic), and asks us to reconsider everything that is at stake when we read and write fiction.
Upstate is a funny, moving family drama from one of the world's most influential literary critics. 'Thoughtful and though-provoking' Financial Times Alan Querry, a successful property developer from the north of England, has two daughters: Vanessa, a philosopher who lives and teaches in Saratoga Springs, NY, and Helen, a record company executive based in London. The sisters never quite recovered from their parents' bitter divorce and the early death of their mother, with Vanessa particularly affected, and plagued by bouts of depression since her teenage years. When she suffers a new crisis, Alan and Helen travel to Saratoga Springs. Over the course of six wintry days in upstate New York, the Querry family begins to struggle with the questions that animate this profound and searching novel: Why do some people find living so much harder than others? Rich in subtle human insight, and vivid with a sense of place, Upstate is a perceptive, intensely poignant novel.