I have always had trouble understanding the shifting mood of a sentence in Virginia Woolf's essay Mr. Bennett and Mrs. Brown that describes the novel form as “so clumsy, verbose, and undramatic, so rich, elastic, and alive” (Woolf 9–10). The contradiction allows Woolf's assessment of the novel to hover between condescension and reverence; this is, after all, an essay that wants to show us what the novel could and should be, as compared to how it really is. Reading John Plotz's prodigiously wide-ranging Semi-detached: The Aesthetics of Virtual Experience since Dickens, however, I finally understood Woolf's contradiction more clearly, not as a lamentation that the novel remains so clumsy when it could be so elastic, but perhaps as an insistence that the novel form is, necessarily, both at the same time. Can a form be both clumsy and elastic—or even better, clumsily elastic, elastically clumsy? Plotz's productively...
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Book Review| August 01 2019
The Elastically Clumsy Novel
Semi-detached: The Aesthetics of Virtual Experience since Dickens. (
344, cloth, $35.00.
Novel (2019) 52 (2): 308–312.
Daniel Wright; The Elastically Clumsy Novel. Novel 1 August 2019; 52 (2): 308–312. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00295132-7546983
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