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Monday, August 27, 2007 10:46 am
New Yorker Gets Wood, Others Don’t
Posted by: Keir Graff

Writing about local resident James Wood (not to be confused with James Woods, me), the Boston Globe (“The Elegant Assassin,” by Christopher Shea) asks:

But what does it mean that the most storied magazine in American history has aligned itself with a critic who essentially rejects the premises of a broad swath of contemporary American fiction?

Well, let’s just say that the critic has his critics:

“I think he just doesn’t get America,” says Lindsay Waters, executive editor for the humanities at Harvard University Press, invoking the argument that a messy, sprawling country demands comparable novels. With Englishmen now installed as prominent fiction critics at The New Yorker and The Atlantic (Christopher Hitchens), “It’s like being in America in 1830, before Emerson arose. We still need to declare our independence.”

John Leonard, a book critic at Harper’s and television critic for New York magazine, said in an e-mail that while he’s determined not to start an intramural sniping session among critics, given the market pressures hurting literary criticism as a whole, he is also “tempted to suggest that not appreciating either Don DeLillo or Toni Morrison suggests that maybe you are tone-deaf to the American language as she is written.”

I’m glad Leonard didn’t give in to temptation.


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