Sonora Review

How Fiction Works

An excellent review/takedown (reviewdown?) of James Wood’s How Fiction Works, a book that the instructors at the University of Arizona have, for lack of a better phrase, been shoving down our throats the past year or so.  My feelings are that it’s a worthwhile book so long as you realize that its title is a complete misnomer.  A useful rule of thumb to remember about critics is the only thing that separates them from you is they’ve read more books.  James Wood’s read a lot of books, and he likes Saul Bellow.  I’ve read a lot of books (admittedly probably one-hundredth of the number Wood has read) and I like John Hawkes.  Wood’s definition of “how fiction works” is depressingly narrow, and would make me want to give up the venture entirely were it not for this: he’s incorrect.  Fiction is not about–never about–one thing.  That’s why it’s still here.

–Jonathon Walter