Serious Noticing: Selected Essays 1997–2019

Farrar. Jan. 2020. 528p. ISBN 9780374261160. $30. Lit
New Yorker staff writer and National Book Critics Circle Award–winning Wood (Professor of the Practice of Literary Criticism, Harvard Univ.; How Fiction Works) presents a number of pieces from four previous essay collections; six of which have never before appeared in book form. These often personal entries explore figures both well known (Melville, Chekhov, Orwell, Austen, Woolf, and Dostoevsky) and perhaps less familiar to American readers (e.g., Bohumil Hrabel, W.G. Sebald, Helen Garner, Ismail Kadare, and Jenny Erpenback). Wood’s keenly felt and deep appreciation for these authors will spur readers to experience the works explicated here for themselves. Occasional passages contrasting Wood’s homeland of Great Britain with his adopted country of the United States, shine in pieces such as “Packing My Father-In-Law’s Library” and “On Not Going Home,” providing welcome biographical insights into the critic’s life and thought.
VERDICT Recommended for nonscholarly but informed readers who appreciate the discovery of authors worth knowing. For all public library collections.
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