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The monk of metaphor

James Wood, Britain's most brilliant literary critic, has published a novel. Can the merciless arbiter live up to his own critical standards?

By Jason Cowley   April 2003

Book: The Book Against God Author: James Wood Price: (Jonathan Cape, ?12.99)

James Wood conforms in many ways to my romantic ideal of the critic. He is not someone for whom literary criticism is a mere profession or a discipline. For Wood, criticism is a vocation, a secular calling.

When Wood, who is 37, first emerged as a young writer on the ‘Guardian’ in the late 1980s, his reviews had a strange, sanctimonious fervour. There was nothing quite like them. They resembled polemical sermons rather than reviews; even then, he seemed to have read everything of value and to know…

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