Over at book blog Big Other, resident genius AD Jameson tells James Wood a thing or two about the possibilities of fiction, opting for inclusion over exclusion in the consideration of valid novelistic style. Jameson’s argument is well-considered, erudite, and strangely hopeful. And perhaps most importantly, it throws into high relief the unfortunate percentage of criticism that seeks to amplify the value of certain areas of art by degrading or seeking to invalidate others.

“Throughout How Fiction Works, Wood systematically diminishes fiction’s enormous capacity. The actual art form is vast, and audiences delight in its diversity. It can accomplish a great many things: entertainment, instruction, journalism, shock, experimentation, verisimilitude, confusion. Its forms range from anecdotes to jokes to fables to parables; from morality tales to allegories to tall tales to dirty stories; from pulp genres like horror, sci-fi, fantasy, romance, war, thrillers, and westerns, to surrealism, Dadaism, and absurdism, to genres more enamored with realism: naturalism, regionalism, and minimalism; from comic books to zines to airport paperbacks to the “great books” on Harold Bloom’s canonical lists; from children’s stories to young adult novels to adult literature to adults-only novels; from the picaresque to the baroque to the romantic to the modern to the postmodern and well beyond; from the high to the low and back again; from the experimental to the utterly conventional. It contains room enough for even the quaint, timid stories delivered weekly by the New Yorker!”

Jameson has his preferences, but above all, he celebrates the great variety of forms possible within fiction, and unlike Wood, would never wish to restrict it. If any of you know Mr. Wood, send him to Jameson’s post, and encourage him to answer for himself!

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SHYA SCANLON is the Fiction Reviews Editor for The Nervous Breakdown. Scanlon's work has appeared in the Mississippi Review, Literary Review, New York Quarterly, Guernica Magazine, Opium Magazine, and others. His book of prose poetry, In This Alone Impulse, was published by Noemi Press in January, 2010. In 2009, his novel Forecast was serialized online across 42 journals and literary blogs as part of the Forecast 42 Project. Forecast will be published by Flatmancrooked in December, 2010. He received his MFA from Brown University, where he was awarded the John Hawkes Prize in Fiction. Please visit him at www.shyascanlon.com.

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