In a beautifully written post entitled Literary Blogs and the James Wood Neurosis 1, Stephen Crowe at Un Arbre dans la Ville questions why the literary blogosphere harbours such hostility toward literary critic James Wood. Accusing eNotes Bookblog, Eric Rosenfeld at Wet Asphalt, Black Garterbelt , Ed Champion at Return of the Reluctant and prime offender Scott Esposito at Comparative Reading of resorting to petty tactics, Stephen posits that "the cogency of Wood’s arguments, together with the depth of his reading and the poetry of his phrasing, give his reviews the appearance of some indomitable truth. As a result, Wood’s words lodge in the minds of these poor postmodernists, demanding a response they have not the vocabulary to give. These cheap jibes-’idiot,’ ‘nitpicking titmouse’ (a curious image), and so on-are directed not at the real James Wood, but at the ghoulish manifestation that has taken up residence in their own minds, demanding that they justify their tastes."
Why the titmice? Envy, shock, incapacity I’d say. Wood writes better than almost all comers: authors, reviewers alike. I’d sacrifice a child or two for his dexterity. Could be xenophobia: how dare this upstart limey besmirch our holy texts. Could be Wood as punk from across town who strides into your sandbox and proceeds to pound the piss out its three toughest residents. What are you supposed to do? Sit there and take it? Can’t beat him, so you yell after him, throw a few sticks. Insult his mother. Cat calls are easier than considered responses, especially if you aren’t getting paid. Why resort to them? Perhaps there’s a desire to goad Wood into responding; a cracker fired in hopes of some shared spotlight. Latent trollish behavior.
All I know is that Wood is great for literary journalism. The more dander he can shake out the better. But please, much as I admire what the aforementioned literary bloggers are doing, let them meet Wood, to the best of their abilities, on high ground, instead of in the back alley.