OVERRIDE

How Fiction Works

James Wood

Picador

In the tradition of E. M. Forster's  Aspects of the Novel and Milan Kundera's The Art of the Novel, How Fiction Works is a scintillating study of the magic of fiction--an analysis of its main elements and a celebration of its lasting power. Here one of the most prominent and stylish critics of our time looks into the machinery of storytelling to ask some fundamental questions: What do we mean when we say we "know" a fictional character? What constitutes a telling detail? When is a metaphor successful? Is Realism realistic? Why do some literary conventions become dated while others stay fresh?

James Wood ranges widely, from Homer to Make Way for Ducklings, from the Bible to John le Carré, and his book is both a study of the techniques of fiction-making and an alternative history of the novel. Playful and profound, How Fiction Works will be enlightening to writers, readers, and anyone else interested in what happens on the page.

BOOK EXCERPTS

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Chapter One
Narrating
 
1
The house of fiction has many windows, but only two or three doors. I can tell a story in the third person or in the first person, and perhaps in the second person singular, or in the first person plural, though successful examples of these latter two are rare indeed. And that is it. Anything else probably will not much resemble narration; it may be closer to poetry, or prose-poetry.
 
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In reality, we are stuck with third- and first-person narration. The common idea is that there is a contrast between reliable narration (third-person omniscience)
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REVIEWS

Praise for How Fiction Works

"How Fiction Works should delight and enlighten practicing novelists, would-be novelists, and all passionate readers of fiction. . . .  Enchanting."--The Economist

"Wood's enthusiasm is glorious . . . a delight. . . . The pleasure in this book lies in watching Wood read."--Time

"An articulate reminder of the framework that is essential to constructing a lasting work of the imagination."--The Miami Herald

"Wood is among the few contemporary writers of great consequence. . . . Reading Wood, no matter the book under review, provides enormous pleasure."--Los Angeles Times

"A fiercely committed critic and consummate stylist."--John Banville, The New York Review of Books

"A perceptive and graceful essay which almost anybody who's interested in books could read . . . Well worth reading."--The Sunday Times (UK)

Reviews from Goodreads

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • James Wood

  • JAMES WOOD is a staff writer at The New Yorker and a visiting lecturer at Harvard. He is the author of two essay collections, The Broken Estate and The Irresponsible Self, and a novel, The Book Against God.

  • James Wood ©Miriam Berkley
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Available Formats and Book Details

How Fiction Works

James Wood

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FROM THE PUBLISHER

Picador

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