In a recent article entitled ‘Two Paths for the Novel’, Zadie Smith praises what requires criticism, and criticizes what deserves praise; erects straw men in order, simply, to blow them over, and presents arguments, which, when valid, are so for the wrong reasons. Her thinking is convoluted and self contradictory. Smith starts off her highly […]

First appeared in The Guardian Writers like Flaubert have been accused of over-using metaphor, but is it possible to have too much of such a good thing? An angry question hounds my appreciation of the novel, like a hungry hyena: To what degree can metaphor be used before intruding on realism’s capacity to replicate life […]

First appeared in The Guardian It’s one of the most contentious debates in the literary blogosphere, but its roots stretch back more than 2,000 years. Is realism, “lifeness” or verisimilitude a necessary quality of good literature? Former Guardian books editor James Wood argues forcefully that it is, and in so doing has trampled on and […]

“A genre is hardening. It is becoming possible to describe today’s ‘big, ambitious novel.’ Familial resemblances are asserting themselves, and a parent can be named: Dickens.” — James Wood, “Hysterical Realism.” “A spectre is haunting Europe — the spectre of communism. All the powers of old Europe have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise […]