He’s At It Again

For all of you who thought Richard Powers got an unfair review, Wood now lashes into A.S. Byatt’s new novel:

Whenever a detail could be selected at the expense of another one, Byatt will always prefer to buy both, and include the receipts: ‘Art Nouveau, the New Art, was paradoxically backward-looking, flirting with the Ancient of Days, the Sphinx, the Chimera, Venus under the Tannenberg, Persian peacocks, melusines and Rhine maidens, along with hairy-legged Pan and draped and dangerous Oriental priestesses’. There is always an atmosphere of the author reporting for intellectual duty, bristling with diligence. Her fictional world is exhaustively searched, but never quite seen. Some large novels – Buddenbrooks, say – are remarkably lithe, but The Children’s Book is rhythmically stolid. It proceeds judiciously: one character is described, then another, then another. One performance is followed by another.


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Admittedly, I loved Buddenbrooks – but does Wood like anything contemporary?

Why would this review mean anything in particular to those who thought Wood was unfair to Powers? Is there a connection? The Powers book sounds like one Wood might have plausibly gotten wrong, whereas the Byatt book sounds simply dreadful, in every conceivable way.

I couldn’t believe the droning pettiness of that Byatt review (I’m not her biggest fan, but this book was a LOT better than Wood conveyed) – and concluding by informing us that it’s not as good as “War and Peace”? Thanks! Glad we got THAT cleared up!

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