March 21, 2007



Rats don't talk? You're going to get booted out of the Legion of Vermin with rubbish like that.


Well, OK - maybe sailor rats talk.


Well, there goes Kafka.


Mark, I think you're right on about The Road, good going. However, while they roast you over at edrants for dismissing Firmin over the talking animal issue, what threw me farthest was the phrase "all McCarthy had to do was demonstrate a baseline of novelistic competence." Ouch. You're about to be a published writer and Savage is a fellow artist, someone who, I'm sure, busted his ass. You're not writing about John Grisham. Attack Savage for his ideas, his prose style, the plausibility of his narrative, but jeez, don't give him the equivalent of a knee to the groin. Seems like bad karma.


Jim, I think you're right, in retrospect. I suppose I meant to say that it would take very little to claim my vote from Firmin but the formulation is inelegant and goes too far.

Still, it's a tough call. I mean, I really deeply disliked this book. (As some people will surely dislike mine. That is an occupational hazard of putting your work out there.) So although I should not imply that Savage is incompetent - he's not - Firmin is such an embodiment of things that don't interest me novelistically that I can understand why I lapsed.

And I've been roasted at Ed's so much that there's special named after me now.


Hey, live and learn.

Correct or not about the animal narrative issue, the bit in the Firmin section was critical. Tough call about the "competence" comment, though? That was cruel, not critical.


I'm going to take "careless" over "cruel" on this one, Jim. But, as you say, live and learn.


You're not referring to the gourmet roadkill by chance? :)

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  • 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."


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