How Fiction Works - James Wood
James Wood, a staff writer for The New Yorker and lecturer in literature at Harvard, describes the devices a novelist uses to convey a story to the reader. How Fiction Works (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $24) covers a wide range in the genre, from the novels of Austen to those of Graham Greene. Reading Wood’s slim and erudite guide to literature caused me to plan a rereading of Flaubert, who “decisively established what most readers and writers think of as modern realistic narrative.” Wood cites passages from John Updike’s The Terrorist that significantly added to my understanding of the different ways the puppeteer was pulling the strings. Wood is a friendly, plain-speaking guide, even in areas where the layers of the creative process get dense. What do Austen, Roth, and David Foster Wallace have in common? The use of different registers, which is a literary way of saying the author uses diction specific to different characters, whether vernacular, pompous, or clichéd.