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What makes a story a story? What is style? What's the connection between realism and real life? These are some of the questions James Wood answers in How Fiction Works, the first book-length essay by the preeminent critic of his generation. Raging widely from Homer to David Foster Wallace, from What Maisie Knew to Make Way for Ducklings, Woods takes the reader through the basic elements of the art of fiction, step-by-step. He sums up two decades of insight with wit and concision, resulting in nothing less than a philosophy of the novel, which has won critical acclaim nationwide, from the San Francisco Chronicle to the New York Times Book Review.