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Reading in a World of Images: Daniel Mendelsohn & James Wood in conversation with Pico Iyer

September 17, 2008

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"Does the common reader exist in our world of splitting screens" Where might we find beauty, seriousness or moral passion among our fraying books? And does it even make sense to put Flaubert, Homer, and Oliver Stone into the same sentence? Two of the defining public critics of our time James Wood, a passionate reader who creates cathedrals out of words, and Daniel Mendelsohn, a professional classicist bringing rigor to the popular arts investigate the space where reading ends and real criticism begins.

---Pico Iyer

 Pico Iyer will conduct a discussion with Daniel Mendelsohn and James Wood, both authors of new books of criticism. Mendelsohn's How Beautiful It Is And How Easily It Can Be Broken is a collection of essays that comments on the vast landscape of contemporary American culture from Quentin Taratino?s film Kill Bill which he sees as representing a generation raised on television reruns and video replays to a theatrical face-off between the work of Stephen Sondheim ?but it's about something? and Mel Brooks ?a wholly safe evening.

In his book, How Fiction Works, Wood says that you have to "read enough literature to be taught by it how to read it" as he explores not just how fiction works but how a novelist's choices make us feel that a novel ultimately works or doesn't.

photo of Pico Iyer by Derek Shapton

About Pico Iyer

Pico Iyer studied nothing but literature for eight years at Eton, Oxford and Harvard, and regularly writes literary essays for The New York Review of Books, Harper's, the T.L.S., The American Scholar among others. He is the author of two novels, Abandon and Cuba and the Night, as well as seven works of non-fiction, including Video Night in Kathmandu, The Lady and the Monk, The Global Soul, and, most recently, The Open Road, an account of 33 years of talks and travels with the XIVth Dalai Lama.




About Daniel Mendelsohn

Daniel Mendelsohn is a frequent contributor to The New York Review of Books and many other publications. He is the author of The Lost, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award and the National Jewish Book Award. The author?s other awards include an NBCC award for book reviewing and the George Jean Nathan Prize for Drama Criticism. He teaches at Bard College. His new essay collection is How Beautiful It Is And How Easily It Can Be Broken.





About James Wood

James Wood is a staff writer at The New Yorker and a visiting lecturer in English and American literature at Harvard University. He is the author of two essay collections, The Broken Estate and The Irresponsible Self, and a novel, The Book Against God. His new book is How Fiction Works.