Concord, Massachusetts

Two weeks of talks, readings, and discussions celebrating the written and the spoken word.

James Wood

Events: How Fiction Works

Book: How Fiction Works

James Wood is the preeminent literary critic of his generation. A staff writer at The New Yorker and a visiting lecturer in English and American literature at Harvard, he is the author of two essay collections, The Broken Estate and The Irresponsible Self, and of a novel, The Book Against God.

His new book, How Fiction Works, is nothing less than a philosophy of the novel. What makes a story a story? What is style? What’s the connection between realism and real life? These are some of the questions James Wood answers. Ranging widely — from Homer to David Foster Wallace, from What Maisie Knew to Make Way for Ducklings, Wood takes the reader through the basic elements of the art, step by step. In the traditions of E. M. Forster’s Aspects of the Novel and Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style, How Fiction Works sums up two decades of insight with wit and concision.

“It is not enough to have one Wood. What is needed is a thicket — a forest of — Woods ... [He proves] that superior criticism not only unifies and interprets a literary culture but has the power to imagine it into being.”
—Cynthia Ozick, Harper’s Magazine