Adrian Slatcher writes poetry, fiction and criticism, and lives in Manchester.
Without a critical culture, is there, in fact, a culture? Literary criticism seemed to be something from the distant past when I was growing up, and though I managed to avoid much in the way of “literary theory”, it clearly coloured a lot of those of my age and slightly older growing up in the academy. Coloured, but not necessarily overwhelmed. Discovering James Wood’s criticism was like a light going on contemporary literary culture. A couple of years older than me, he is therefore younger than the generation he began writing about, and his perspective has always been engaged, but at one remove. Although he takes big themes (religion, satire), he never ignores the books or the authors themselves. UK educated, but US based he seems to span the best of both cultures. Often called “the best literary critic of his generation” I sometimes think he is the only literary critic of his generation. His essay collection “The Broken Estate” (2000) is a touchstone, but when he criticises a book it stays criticised, the value in his work being his deep engagement with particular books and writers. The author is not “dead” in Wood’s writing, but worthy of serious interrogation. Wood’s criticism is also highly readable, despite its depth. He has also written a novel, “The Book Against God”, a small, dignified debut.
Wikipedia on James Wood
James Wood’s writing at the London Review of Books