“Too Much Information” takes issue with critic James Wood's charge that “information” plays a disproportionate and aesthetically unfortunate role in many of the larger and more ambitious novels recently published in English. It makes a case for the value of information. It does so first by discussing what it calls “commodity origin” scenes in Émile Zola, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Richard Powers, a genre that like the epic simile interrupts the action to provide background knowledge. Second, it reflects on the famous first sentence of Gabriel García Márquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude and recent novelists who have imitated it, including Salman Rushdie, Michael Chabon, and Jeffrey Eugenides. Linking the extra information this model sentence conveys to the representation of atrocity, it answers Wood's specific charge—that information has taken over from readerly emotion—by showing that the proper management of novelistic emotion, the shaping of emotion appropriate to a brutal and global reality, is precisely the effect that this supplementary information aims at.
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Bruce Robbins; Too Much Information. Novel 1 May 2010; 43 (1): 78–82. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00295132-2009-066
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