In a coda to this remarkable book, David Kurnick makes a large and interesting claim: “Fiction sits at an odder angle to the real than is dreamt of in a lot of academic criticism” (182). Several words in this sentence (“odder,” “real,” “dreamt,” to start with) look as if they might open avenues to endless discussion. But the claim has considerable immediate force. It helps us to understand why so much fiction, old and new, works as well as it does; why a lot of conventionally angled fiction seems to be underperforming; and why academic criticism, even by academic standards, might need an update.

It is part of the book's argument that oddness may illuminate reality but won't copy it, and in “Sensini,” a short story by Roberto Bolaño, Kurnick sees a “subtlety . . . which . . . inverts our received idea of art as the place where...

You do not currently have access to this content.