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The Fun Stuff: And Other Essays Audiobook, by James Wood Extended Sample Click for printable size audiobook cover
Author: James Wood Narrator: Simon Vance Publisher: Blackstone Publishing Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: February 2015 ISBN: 9781483061337
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A new, far-ranging collection of essays from “the strongest…literary critic we have.” (New York Review of Books)

Following The Broken Estate, The Irresponsible Self, and How Fiction Works—books that established James Wood as the leading critic of his generation—The Fun Stuff confirms Wood’s preeminence, not only as a discerning judge but also as an appreciator of the contemporary novel. In twenty-five passionate, sparkling dispatches—which range over such crucial writers as Thomas Hardy, Leo Tolstoy, Edmund Wilson, and Mikhail Lermontov—Wood offers a panoramic look at the modern novel. He effortlessly connects his encyclopedic, passionate understanding of the literary canon with an equally in-depth analysis of the most important authors writing today, including Cormac McCarthy, Lydia Davis, and Aleksandar Hemon.

Included in The Fun Stuff is the title essay on Keith Moon and the lost joys of drumming—which was a finalist for last year’s National Magazine Awards—as well as Wood’s essay on George Orwell, which Christopher Hitchens selected for The Best American Essays 2010. The Fun Stuff is indispensable reading for anyone who cares about contemporary literature.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Wood passes a crucial test of criticism: He is unfailingly interesting to read....He opens up new dimensions of the novel he’s reading in a way that strands other critics in Flatland.”

    Chicago Tribune

  • “Stirringly intimate...The fun of Wood’s caliber of criticism is his shared enthusiasm. The thrill of these essays is the joy of vivid, intellectual collaboration.”

    Minneapolis Star Tribune

  • “A captivating collection...Wood enlightens and excites, informs and ignites disagreement. He sends readers back to novels with a heightened awareness of what makes fiction live and breathe.”

    San Francisco Chronicle

  • “Nabokov famously recommended that ‘as a reader, one should notice and fondle details,’ and Wood is something like the critical embodiment of this ideal....An excellent and necessary critic.”


  • “This collection of twenty-three essays gathered from the New Republic, the London Review of Books, and the New Yorker offers the latest proof that Wood is one of the best readers writing today. Devouring these pieces back-to-back feels like having a long conversation about books with your most erudite, articulate, and excitable friend. To read his essays on the works of Norman Rush, Aleksandar Hemon, Leo Tolstoy, or Lydia Davis is to relive the specific brand of joy created by a particular work of genius. Wood’s reviews are never just evaluations; more often they are passionate, sensitive discourses on the variations of authorial voice, the nature of memory, or the burden of biography. Wood’s critical writing on Cormac McCarthy, Joseph O’Neill, and Thomas Hardy is bookended by two moving personal essays…Wood’s veneration of virtuosity reminds why we’re reading at all—because we still believe that it’s possible to find transcendence in great art. Isn’t it fun to think so?”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “Literary criticism sometimes takes itself too seriously, so it’s a pleasure to see that preeminent literary critic Wood’s very title reminds us what literature is really about: fun. Here he offers his heartfelt views on writers ranging from Thomas Hardy, Leo Tolstoy, and Mikhail Lermontov to Cormac McCarthy, Lydia Davis, and Michel Houellebecq. The twenty-three essays have all appeared in some form in the New Yorker, where Wood is a staff writer; get ready for some bracing delights.”

    Library Journal

  • “Simon Vance’s well-known capacity for blending in with a text works to good effect in this mixed collection of essays and reviews…Vance finds in Wood’s eclectic and associative style a natural flow of ideas, references, and fresh insights.…They all meet compatibly in Vance’s measured and seamless delivery, and the result is a highly satisfying and thought-provoking demonstration of the critical mind at work. Winner of the AudioFile Earphones Award.”


  • A Publishers Weekly Best Book for Fall 2012
  • A Publishers Weekly Pick of the Week, October 2012
  • A 2012 Kansas City Star Top 100 Book for Nonfiction
  • Winner of an AudioFile Earphones Award

Listener Reviews

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  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Avi | 11/5/2013

    " Not horrible. Not fantastic. Better to skim than to savor. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Travis | 9/13/2013

    " I don't always agree with Mr. Wood, but I can't seem to stop reading his books, and he leads me to writers I wouldn't have discovered otherwise. I'll bet Paul Auster thinks he's a dick. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Gish | 11/25/2012

    " I don't always love what Wood loves. For example, give me Out Stealing Horses over I Curse the River of Time any day. Still: so smart, so articulate, so patient, so revealing. This is not only a must read, imho, but a must re-read. "

About the Author

James Wood is a staff writer at the New Yorker and a visiting lecturer in English and American literature at Harvard. Previously he taught literature with Saul Bellow at Boston University and, in 1994, served as a judge for the Booker Prize. He is the author of How Fiction Works, several essay collections, and the novel The Book against God.

About the Narrator

Simon Vance (a.k.a. Robert Whitfield) is an award-winning actor and narrator. He has earned more than fifty Earphones Awards and won the prestigious Audie Award for best narration thirteen times. He was named Booklist’s very first Voice of Choice in 2008 and has been named an AudioFile Golden Voice as well as an AudioFile Best Voice of 2009. He has narrated more than eight hundred audiobooks over almost thirty years, beginning when he was a radio newsreader for the BBC in London. He is also an actor who has appeared on both stage and television.