In todays New York Times Book Review, the cover review is Walter Kirns vivisection of James Woods new book, How Fiction Works. Heres the reviews concluding paragraph:

Having been lashed by twice as many citations as even a formalist-cum-structuralist should require, and having been incrementally diminished by Woods tone of genteel condescension (he flashes the Burberry lining of his jacket whenever he rises from his armchair to fetch another Harvard Classic), the common reader is likely to concede virtually anything the master wishes except, perhaps, his precious time. For someone who professes to understand the fine machinations of characterization, Wood seems oblivious to the eminently resistible prose style of his donnish, finicky persona. "How Fiction Works" is a definitive title, promising much and presuming even more: that anyone, in the age of made-up memoirs and so-called novels whose protagonists share their authors biographies and names, still knows what fiction is; that those who do know agree that it resembles a machine or a device, not a mess, a mystery or a miracle; and that once we know how fiction works, well still care about it as an art form rather than merely admire it as an exercise. But there is one question this volume answers conclusively: Why Readers Nap.

Those final words may one day rank with the comment in the NY Times about a play by Clifford Odets: "Odets, where is thy sting?" Or with the headline of a review of a Barbra Streisand film: "A Boor is Starred."

Rev. Joseph A. Komonchak, professor emeritus of the School of Theology and Religious Studies at the Catholic University of America, is a retired priest of the Archdiocese of New York.

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