Wood is controversial partly for his unusually clear (his detractors say crabbed) ideas about what a great novel is — or, rather, isn’t. He is especially set against “hysterical realism,” his coinage for books that attempt to convey the raucousness of contemporary life through outlandish proliferating plots, allegory, bizarre coincidence, and high irony. In other words: Pynchon, Salman Rushdie, much of David Foster Wallace, the first two Zadie Smith books, and half of “The Corrections,” by Jonathan Franzen.
He is not indirect in his criticisms. The Nobel Laureate Morrison’s novel “Paradise,” Wood pronounced a few years back, “is a novel babyishly cradled in magic. It is sentimental, evasive, and cloudy.” DeLillo’s “Underworld,” he has written, “proves, once and for all, or so I must hope, the incompatibility of the political paranoid vision with great fiction.”
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