Whatever else he may be, he gets this sort of thing mostly right:
At present, contemporary novelists are increasingly eager to "tell us about the culture," to fill their books with the latest report on "how we live now." Information is the new character; we are constantly being told that we should be impressed by how much writers know. What they should know, and how they came to know it, seems less important, alas, than that they simply know it. The idea that what one knows might – to use Nietzsche's phrase – "come out of one's own burning" rather than free and flameless from Google, seems at present alien. The danger is that the American fondness for realism combines with this will-to-information to produce a hyperliteralism of the novel: you can see this in Tom Wolfe....
By "hysterical realism" I have meant a zany overexcitement, a fear of silence and stillness, a tendency toward self-conscious riffs, easy ironies, puerility, and above all the exaggeration of the vitality of fictional characters into cartoonishness. The dilemma could be put dialectically: the writer, fearful that her characters are not "alive" enough, overdoes the liveliness and goes on a vitality spress; suddenly aware that she has overdone it, she tries to solve the problem by drawing self-conscious attention to the exaggeration...But the self-consciousness, far from healing the wound, merely makes it bloodier.
My second critical preoccupation flows from the first: there is a generalized overemphasis on a certain kind of intelligence in fiction – now habitually and tellingly renamed "smartness." We are now so convinced of the terrifying complexity of our culture that we tend to flatter those writers who grapple with it at all, certain that they must be very brilliant just to be attempting it. But Proust rightly said in Contre Sainte-Beuve that to say of a novelist "he is very intelligent" is no different from saying "he loved his mother very much." ("Reply to the Editors," n+1 number three)
All well and good, perhaps, but the broad strokes run aground in numerous fashions. Can you spot them all? For one thing, David Foster Wallace pulls it off, all this badness, and makes it rather good (not everyone is DFW, and quite a few people should stop trying to be, but nonetheless, he does it). For another, Wood maybe risks endorsing a somewhat balding nostalgia merely, unless he has come to grips elsewhere (I've no idea) with the implications for both the literary 'subject' and the 'author' over the course of the last thirty years of literary theory. There have been some profound developments, after all, and there are some good reasons, I think, why people don't write just like Dickens anymore.