Parul Sehgal at The New York Times:
In the introduction, Wood mentions that he was taught how to read by a deconstructionist who would badger the class with the same question: “What are the stakes here?” The two voices mingling in this collection give a beautiful, moving sense of the stakes of criticism as Wood has practiced it, vigorously, without interruption for 30 years: What does it mean to do this work well, and what does it add to the world? What has it added to his life? Wood’s latest novel, “Upstate,” which follows a deeply depressed philosopher, dramatizes these questions about the relationships between analysis and fulfillment. He writes in that book: “If intelligent people could think themselves into happiness, intellectuals would be the happiest people on earth.”
Wood had his deconstructionist, and many of us have had James Wood. No modern critic has exerted comparable influence in how we read.