Something happened to Jane Smiley with her eleventh novel, Good Faith: others liked it but she didn't. An exceptionally versatile, inventive and successful novelist, suddenly she had become detached from – had seen the possibility of losing faith in – her vocation. So what did she do? She decided to read a hundred novels. The logic of this decision may seem puzzling, but it led to her writing this book, so we must be grateful for it.
The nature and complexity of Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Novel can best be conveyed by its list of chapter titles: What Is a Novel; Who Is a Novelist; The Psychology of the Novel; Morality and the Novel; The Art of the Novel; The Novel and History; The Circle