Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Thick Erections

By happy coincidence, I was in the process of reading The Corrections just as Harper's contributing editor Wyatt Mason posted his three-part account of an event with Jonathan Franzen discussing his novel with critic James Wood.

The first part recounts their conversation on the state of the novel and the extent to which Franzen had succeeded in balancing challenging fiction with readable narratives, concluding with Mason asking about the role criticism plays in Franzen's work as a novelist. The second begins with Franzen's response that it does play a significant role, and then Mason follows up by wondering why more writers of fiction don't engage with critics directly. (Relevant footnotes here to Wood's review of The Corrections and Mason's review of Wood's first novel, The Book Against God.) And the third part addresses the idea that critics do not engage with contemporary fiction, leading to the introduction of Mason's essay arguing that there is plenty of intelligent criticism being written. Which I gather is a running theme of Mason's.

Anyway. I enjoyed it all. With the exception of the Book Against God review which I mostly skimmed until I get a chance to read the book. No spoilerz.

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