“James Wood has been called our best young critic. This is not true. He is our best critic; he thinks with a sublime ferocity.”–Cynthia Ozick Following the collection The Broken Estate–which established James Wood as the leading critic of his generation–The Irresponsible Self confirms Wood’s preeminence, not only as a discerning judge but also as an appreciator of contemporary novels. In twenty-three passionate, sparkling dispatches, he effortlessly connects his encyclopedic, passionate understanding of the literary canon with an equally earnest and appreciative view of the most discussed authors writing today, including Franzen, Pynchon, Rushdie, DeLillo, Naipaul, David Foster Wallace, and Zadie Smith. This collection includes Wood’s famous and controversial attack on “hysterical realism”, and his sensitive but unsparing examinations of White Teeth and Brick Lane. The Irresponsible Self is indispensable reading for anyone who cares about modern fiction.