The question of why a writer can make the words on the page come to felt life in one genre but not another–why the gift of expressiveness is extended here while that of appreciation goes there–this question remains unanswerable. For the reader, it is only necessary that gift there be–the one that makes us feel alive to literature and ourselves when subject, writer, and form are brilliantly matched.

-Vivian Gornick’s review of James Wood’s Upstate