A Place On The Literary Map

Lydia Kiesling reviews James Wood's new essay collection, The Fun Stuff, and appreciates the erudition he brings to his criticism:

Wood’s writing has nothing to do with the rehashed press releases that are called book reviews and appear even, or especially, in the pages of major newspapers.  He writes Criticism, situating every book that crosses his desk on a map of literature.  …  One of the reasons that reading Wood can be depressing is that his map seems so much more detailed than your own:  A book by László Krasznahorkai features, according to Wood, “the kind of supporting cast you want in Central European comic novels.”  But everyone who reads and writes about literature has, like Keith Moon, a peculiar set of drums.  What is fascinating, if not exactly fun, about The Fun Stuff is seeing more clearly the components of Wood’s kit, how they fit together to produce his own particular kind of racket.