In a recent interview promoting his latest essay collection, The Fun Stuff , critic James Wood sighed: “It’s tiresome after a while just to hand down judgments all day, all night.” English-born and Cambridge-educated, he made his name as a critic working for the New Republic , where he became known for some loudly negative reviews.

But he did more than make noise. He enlivened the American literary scene, and we are still enjoying a certain literary revitalization thanks to his early essays covering all the major English-language novelists from Jonathan Franzen to David Foster Wallace to Zadie Smith, as well as his considerations of figures like Melville and Dostoevsky.

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