This is a book I've read, re-read, and re-re-read. I go back to it frequently, whenever I've finished one of the titles from its bibliography, or just...moreThis is a book I've read, re-read, and re-re-read. I go back to it frequently, whenever I've finished one of the titles from its bibliography, or just to revisit Wood's various topics. Deceptively simple and quickly read. If allowed, HFW will inform any novel you read. It is not comprehensive in its scope; it omits topics like plot, structure, etc. and limits itself to Wood's own intersts (an issue some reviewers take exception to).
There was a time when I'd read a passage from a novel and wonder 'whose word IS that?' Thanks to Wood, I realize many of those passages were written in free indirect style. Now that I can identify it, I see its use more frequently and have an appreciation for its utility.
Whatever else this book is, it is NOT a how-to manual for new authors. Although, they would likely benefit from reading it. Wood's simple presentation considers an abundance of novels, many quite well-known or classics, and he adds insight to every title mentioned. This book is nothing like his books of essays, but it is informed by the same sensibility. For those who might be theory- or criticism-averse. (less)
This is a very worth-while book of criticism (even for those of us not much interested in Freudian interpretation) particularly after reading Great Ex...moreThis is a very worth-while book of criticism (even for those of us not much interested in Freudian interpretation) particularly after reading Great Expectations and Absalom, Absalom, on which the author devotes two chapter-length essays. The chapter on Great Expectations is included in both the Norton Critical Edition of GE and the Bedford/St. Martin's Case Studies in Contemporary Criticism edition of GE. (less)
I decided to re-read this one in anticipation of Bolaño’s Between Parentheses: Essays, Articles and Speeches, 1998-2003 due later this month. I thought: it’s short, quickly accomplished, and that it will allow me a ‘jump’ in the Reading Challenge, freeing up some time for something longer (more Marías?) or something meatier (the upcoming Bolaño).
I happily proceeded, getting a kick out of his occasional contrariness and admiring his familiarity with and advocacy for various other Central and South American authors ( Horacio Castellanos Moya says of Bolaño: In his literary beginnings, in Mexico City, he led the foundation of the Infrarrealistas (the ones he calls Visceral Realists in his novel [[book:The Savage Detectives|63033]]), and in the last years of his splendid career, he still didn’t lose that sense of literary “tribe,” only then it was at a Latin American level. And since he was a generous man he would mention all those who wrote works with which he identified, and since he was a voracious and intense reader he was up to date with the latest writing published in Latin America, and since he was brave and had no hairs on his tongue he became the reference of the new generation of Latin American writers. I committed myself to read those works that Bolaño would mention as the best that were being produced in Latin America)—authors whom I’m enjoying now.
And then I came to a discussion of three types of literary silence as evidenced by Juan Rulfo, Arthur Rimbaud, and Georg Büchner. In a 2005 interview, Bolaño says:
Rulfo stopped writing because he had already written everything he wanted to write and because he sees himself incapable of writing anything better, he simply stops. Rimbaud would probably have been able to write something much better, which is to say bringing his words up even higher, but his is a silence that raises questions for Westerners. Rulfo’s silence doesn’t raise questions. It’s a close silence, quotidian. After desert, what the hell are you going to eat? There is a third literary silence—one doesn’t seek it—of the shade which one is sure was there under the threshold and which has never been made tangible. There stands the silence of Georg Büchner for example. He died at twenty-five or twenty-four years of age, he leaves behind three or four stage plays, masterworks … All before he turned twenty-five. What might have happened had Büchner not died; what kind of writer might he have been? The kind of silence that isn’t sought out is the silence of … I do not dare call it destiny… a manifestation of impotence. The silence of death is the worst kind of silence, because Rulfian silence is accepted and Rimbaudian silence is sought, but the silence of death is the one that cuts the edge off what could have been and never will be, that which we will never know … We’ll never know what he might have written at thirty. And that extends across the planet like a stain, an atrocious illness that in one way or another puts our habits in check, our most ingrained certainties.
One might here wonder: what might 2666 have been had the author lived? What might have come next for Bolaño?
The Introduction (Alone among the Ghosts by Marcela Valdes) is well worth the price of admission, the uncompiled bibliography (gleaned from the sidenotes) is compelling, and any time with RB is time well-spent.