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January 16, 2004

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» Hustle Cussler Outta There from Return of the Reluctant
Clive Cussler has sued a production company over an unauthorized script. My hope is that he wins. Not because of its merits (or lack thereof), mind you, but a quiet $10 million payoff may stop Cussler from writing novels. That... [Read More]

» The State of Books & the NYTBR, Part 1 from Return of the Reluctant
2 Blowhards has chimed in on the NYTBR imbroglio. I started drafting a comment, but I feel that the points Michael raises within his monumental post need to be responded to at length: First off, Michael's hubris (nothing new for... [Read More]

Comments

Emma

Thank you for having the insight and energy to outline why this was a load of crap. It was a like an audition for the part of person you'd least like to be stuck in a corner with at a party.

hmm

re: And someone who thinks ol’ Quentin is a “critic’s fave” can only be willfully ignoring the Kill Bill reviews… eh?

Simon

One particular comment in the post that struck me was the passing reference to British book people. The British literary "scene" is infected to a great degree with the faux populism that characterises the post itself -- an inability (or unwillingness) to make hard calls about the authenticity of a writer's work. Couple that with a strong book reviewing culture in the popular press, and you have a recepie for disaster: a huge number of reviews written with no care whatsoever for the fact that different books require (or, gasp, deserve) different kinds of reading.

Deb Smith

I rise from my shabby little literary ghetto (15 years spent writing pop fiction aka romance novels) to hoot at the pompous discussions taking place in your self-involved psuedo-important literary world. Blowhard is a hoot because, as you ably point out, his idea of slumming still carefully segregates acceptable slumming (reading self-help books, gasp!) from truly appalling slumming (reading romance novels and, in fact, any other type of fiction beloved by millions of women -- an interesting, highly sexist ommission, IMHO. As in "some pop books aren't even worth mentioning, especially if women like them.") But the arguments here at EV are equally pud-pulling and silly, because you continue to miss the Big Point: People who read are superior to all other people. It does not matter WHAT people read. Chekhov or Oprah, Dave Eggers or Nora Roberts. Reading people are superior human beings, and should be respected. Yet the self-ordained uppercrust of the literary world continues to do some Gollum-like impression of nobility, dissing every other kind of reader and insisting that there is only one Precious and it belongs to Me, only Me. How pathetic. Go ye and read a Harlequin.

Nyarlathotep

Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. Thanks for writing this.

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TEV DEFINED


  • The Elegant Variation is "Fowler’s (1926, 1965) term for the inept writer’s overstrained efforts at freshness or vividness of expression. Prose guilty of elegant variation calls attention to itself and doesn’t permit its ideas to seem naturally clear. It typically seeks fancy new words for familiar things, and it scrambles for synonyms in order to avoid at all costs repeating a word, even though repetition might be the natural, normal thing to do: The audience had a certain bovine placidity, instead of The audience was as placid as cows. Elegant variation is often the rock, and a stereotype, a cliché, or a tired metaphor the hard place between which inexperienced or foolish writers come to grief. The familiar middle ground in treating these homely topics is almost always the safest. In untrained or unrestrained hands, a thesaurus can be dangerous."

SECOND LOOK

  • The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald

    Bs

    Penelope Fitzgerald's second novel is the tale of Florence Green, a widow who seeks, in the late 1950s, to bring a bookstore to an isolated British town, encountering all manner of obstacles, including incompetent builders, vindictive gentry, small minded bankers, an irritable poltergeist, but, above all, a town that might not, in fact, want a bookshop. Fitzgerald's prose is spare but evocative – there's no wasted effort and her work reminds one of Hemingway's dictum that every word should fight for its right to be on the page. Florence is an engaging creation, stubbornly committed to her plan even as uncertainty regarding the wisdom of the enterprise gnaws at her. But The Bookshop concerns itself, finally, with the astonishing vindictiveness of which provincials are capable, and, as so much English fiction must, it grapples with the inevitabilities of class. It's a dense marvel at 123 pages, a book you won't want to – or be able to – rush through.
  • The Rider by Tim Krabbe

    Rider_4

    Tim Krabbé's superb 1978 memoir-cum-novel is the single best book we've read about cycling, a book that will come closer to bringing you inside a grueling road race than anything else out there. A kilometer-by-kilometer look at just what is required to endure some of the most grueling terrain in the world, Krabbé explains the tactics, the choices and – above all – the grinding, endless, excruciating pain that every cyclist faces and makes it heart-pounding rather than expository or tedious. No writer has better captured both the agony and the determination to ride through the agony. He's an elegant stylist (ably served by Sam Garrett's fine translation) and The Rider manages to be that rarest hybrid – an authentic, accurate book about cycling that's a pleasure to read. "Non-racers," he writes. "The emptiness of those lives shocks me."