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Clearing away dead Wood?

James Wood has been the king of the literary critics for almost a decade, and for good reason. But are the tides of opinion now turning against his realist proscriptions?

By Daniel Miller   February 2009

At one point in David Lodge’s novel Small World, a graduating student visits his tutor for some career advice. “I am thinking of joining the army,” the young scholar says. “My dear boy,” the tutor replies, “If it’s violence you want, try literary journalism!”

In fact, real violence is rare in the republic of letters. Passing scuffles and spitting contests happen sporadically, but genuine carnage occurs with only meteoric infrequency.

The critic James Wood surely knows this better than most. In July 2000, Wood effectively made his name with an important piece of siege ballistics published in The New…

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