The Irresponsible Self by James Wood
On Laughter and the Novel

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Synopsis

"James Wood has been called our best young critic. This is not true. He is our best critic; he thinks with a sublime ferocity."--Cynthia Ozick

Following the collection The Broken Estate--which established James Wood as the leading critic of his generation--The Irresponsible Self confirms Wood's preeminence, not only as a discerning judge but also as an appreciator of contemporary novels.

In twenty-three passionate, sparkling dispatches, he effortlessly connects his encyclopedic, passionate understanding of the literary canon with an equally earnest and appreciative view of the most discussed authors writing today, including Franzen, Pynchon, Rushdie, DeLillo, Naipaul, David Foster Wallace, and Zadie Smith.

This collection includes Wood's famous and controversial attack on "hysterical realism", and his sensitive but unsparing examinations of White Teeth and Brick Lane. The Irresponsible Self is indispensable reading for anyone who cares about modern fiction.

 

About James Wood

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James Wood is a staff writer at The New Yorker and a visiting lecturer at Harvard University. He is the author of How Fiction Works, as well as two essay collections, The Broken Estate and The Irresponsible Self, and a novel, The Book Against God, all published by FSG.
 
Published April 1, 2005 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 340 pages
Genres: History, Literature & Fiction, Humor & Entertainment. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for The Irresponsible Self

Kirkus Reviews

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A theory of distinctively “modern” comedy is and isn’t consistently addressed in this provocative gathering of 21 recent (1999–2003) reviews by the stylish critic (The Broken Estate, 1999, etc.) and novelist (The Book Against God, 2003, etc.).

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The Guardian

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The piece, which first came out as an introduction to Shchedrin's The Golovlyov Family, may, though, have served its purpose only too well, in that I now feel absolved of the duty to read the novel: Wood has shown us what makes it tick so wonderfully that it feels as though the novel itself could...

Oct 01 2005 | Read Full Review of The Irresponsible Self: On La...

The Guardian

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In the 19th century some Christian writers - Coleridge, Dostoevsky and Tolstoy - paradoxically managed to achieve some version or aspect of this comedy (Wood's essay on Anna Karenina captures beautifully the Tolstoyan sense of human fullness), but it comes to its high point with Wood's hero and ...

May 22 2004 | Read Full Review of The Irresponsible Self: On La...

The Guardian

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The Irresponsible Self: On Laughter and the Novel by James Wood Jonathan Cape £16.99, pp256 James Wood is not often thought of as a comedian.

May 16 2004 | Read Full Review of The Irresponsible Self: On La...

The Independent

Wood is fond of those writers whom fashion neglects.

Jun 11 2004 | Read Full Review of The Irresponsible Self: On La...

Nonsuch Book

A preoccupation with performance despite a decided lack of engagement in most things aside from railway stations, and sexual fantasies about his friends that betrayed slight self-awareness for a thirty six year old man suggest a static character whose obtuseness seems inescapable no matter what p...

Sep 14 2014 | Read Full Review of The Irresponsible Self: On La...

Nonsuch Book

Today's post is just reading impressions - organized randomness in a way.

Mar 26 2009 | Read Full Review of The Irresponsible Self: On La...

Nonsuch Book

But all the feelings we are made to experience by the joy or misfortune of a real person are produced in us only through the intermediary of an image of that joy or that misfortune;

Apr 19 2009 | Read Full Review of The Irresponsible Self: On La...

Nonsuch Book

« late to the lighthouse |.

Jan 30 2010 | Read Full Review of The Irresponsible Self: On La...

Nonsuch Book

Then I was grabbed by the possibilities of its treatment of language, Sumerian myth, the connections I imagined to the Borges I was reading, the appeal of this pending infocalypse, it's primal qualities, its visual qualities and before you know it I am speeding along slowed only by sustained patc...

Jun 11 2010 | Read Full Review of The Irresponsible Self: On La...

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