James Wood’s The Irresponsible Self: On Laughter and the Novel isn’t out yet, but my order is in. If you’re not yet convinced, read a review in the weekend’s Scotsman by James W. Wood (no relation), which begins:
A clue to the seriousness of James Woodâ€™s engagement with the novel comes not from the introduction to his brilliant second collection of essays, but from the acknowledgements. Before the thanks begin, he writes that this book is “about the secular and comic nature of modern fiction”, and hopes it may be seen as “the secular reply to the more religious proposals of [his first volume] The Broken Estate“.
Few critics now writing in English would make this kind of remark, for fear of being thought too high-falutin. But this is the key to Woodâ€™s success: he cares more passionately about the novel than any other contemporary critic.
(Here’s another review.)