A New Yorker Critic Goes Feral

Clichéd life drives James Wood to a forest existence

Apr 9th, 2010 | By Coco Cabrera | Category: Arts

New Yorker book critic James Wood has gone feral and is liv­ing as a wild ani­mal in a forested area in upstate New York accord­ing to the edi­tor of The New Yorker mag­a­zine David Remnick.

I can con­firm he is no longer domes­ti­cated,” said Remnick.

The squir­rel leapt at Jim.”

Wood was appar­ently pro­foundly dis­tressed to real­ize that many of the clichés he dis­ap­proved of in fic­tion, its “codes and con­ven­tions” were his quo­tid­ian reality.

I think the first thing Jim noticed were the small, telling details in his life. His office was “small, well orga­nized and focused on a bat­tered lap­top. It had a pecu­liar smell of left­over take­out.”  said a col­league at the mag­a­zine. “See­ing that I guess Jim asked ques­tions that no one should.   Life really is more con­crete than abstract and the very act of think­ing about that showed Jim  that he had the more or less orderly access to con­scious­ness and mem­ory of a typ­i­cal fic­tional character.”

Wood also began to sense that coin­ci­dences were chang­ing the course of his life.  He was report­edly struck with a half-eaten taco thrown from the win­dow of a car.  This obliged him to return to his apart­ment to change his soiled shirt.  There he hap­pened on a bur­glar who had waited for his depar­ture to break in.  Mr. Wood wres­tled her to the ground. Wood and the thief became aroused in strug­gle and ended up hav­ing sex. Details revealed dur­ing a post-coital dia­logue showed that Wood and the intruder were, in fact, long sep­a­rated brother and sister.

The improb­a­bil­ity of that … and the pro­found, sud­den character-changing rev­e­la­tions, all trig­gered by some goof toss­ing a taco out of a car … it wasn’t very good and it was his life,” said Rem­nick. “Jim did not want to have any­thing to do with his own story.

It was  an effort to escape the ortho­doxy of his own life,  its pre­dictabil­ity, that led him to the auto­matic, instinct-driven life of a wild animal.

There’s been pretty good weather so I under­stand he’s not been too uncom­fort­able,” said Rem­nick.  “And the other day he tracked and killed a squir­rel. The event, though crit­i­cal to his sur­vival, was not imbued with arti­fi­cial mean­ing, it didn’t sig­nify any­thing more than itself and it advanced the plot.  It was, I’m told quite dra­matic, full of action. It had irony and pathos.  And I think it was a nice break from the bugs he’s been liv­ing on.”

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