The Paris Review

A History of the Novel in Two Hundred Essays

V. S. Pritchett

As an undergraduate, I gave up trying to write fiction (my only completed story bore the decidedly unpromising title “Growing Marijuana”) and realized I wanted to write literary criticism instead. Troubled by the cavernous gaps in my reading, I sent a fan letter to James Wood, whom I didn’t know personally but whom I admired deeply, and asked him what he thought an aspiring young critic ought to read. He generously recommended the Complete Collected Essays of V. S. Pritchett. “Try to find this big book,” he wrote, “it has hundreds of essays in it, covering essentially the history of the novel. I learned a lot from it.”

Without online retailers, however, finding the book would not have been easy. Though published as recently as 1991, when its author was ninety-one, the has since gone out of print, and seems unlikely now to be reissued. It’s a massive tome, over thirteen hundred pages, and weighs about the same as a cast-iron skillet.

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