Skip to Content

Capacious essays

12 July 2004

'Literary criticism as a discourse available for, and even attractive to, the common reader has all but disappeared. Literature as criticism - DeLillo's knowing essayism, Rushdie's parables about hybridity, Franzen's postmodern riffs - has burgeoned, while criticism as literature, what R.P. Blackmuir called 'the formal discourse of an amateur', has faded.

This ought not to be possible. If all those clever writers studied other writers at university, they should, in addition to producing fiction and poetry, be writing capacious essays for the mythical common reader. We should be awash in V.S. Pritchetts and Edmund Wilsons.'

James Wood, London Review of Books