« HIGHLIGHTS - JOHN BANVILLE AT LAPL | Main | TEV GIVEAWAY: GEORGE SAUNDERS 3-FER »

March 22, 2007

Comments

jim

"But Richard Ford is no Nabokov, and his narrator, Frank Bascombe, is no Humbert Humbert." And Maud Newton has an umpcoming appearance with Colson Whitehead, whose writing she adores. And we know how cozy Whitehead and Ford are. I didn't care much for Lay of the Land, either. In fact, I agree with a lot of what she said, but my goodness . . . One wonders about an agenda.

jim

"But Richard Ford is no Nabokov, and his narrator, Frank Bascombe, is no Humbert Humbert." And Maud Newton has an umpcoming appearance with Colson Whitehead, whose writing she adores. And we know how cozy Whitehead and Ford are. I didn't care much for Lay of the Land, either. In fact, I agree with a lot of what she said, but my goodness . . . One wonders about an agenda.

Ms Baroque

Richard Ford's been a big disappointment over the years, I think. I was so excited when I read The Sportswriter, I went aroudn telling everybody who would listen how unutterably brilliant it was - and though its particularly Jew-Jerseyish angst was a lot easier to deal with from London, that was like an endorsement of its amazing verisimilitude. But since then I have to say I have grown weary, and then worse than weary, of John Updike, Saul Bellow and Philip Roth, and their brand of sexist middle-aged male angst. It seems like old news. It's stale. And unpleasant. And the books are always too long.

It's such a shame because he had a beautiful prose style. (Then, so did Nabokov...)

Strange contest, though - Kate Atkinson vs Richard Ford?

TEV

Jim:

Or perhaps she simply didn't like the book.

Maud's reputation for fair-mindedness is well established and needs no defending from me. But your post strikes me as pretty cynical.

Of course, perhaps my agenda is that Maud and I are friends. Once one begins seeking ulterior motives, it's hard to stop, isn't it?

IneluctableQuack

To Ms. Baroque

An interviewer once asked Philip Roth why he hadn’t included the woman’s point of view in one his books. Or something like that.
He writes, he responded, "about the lives of men.” After reading his response I felt like writing him a thank you note because indeed, when I read his books, I feel like he is writing about men honestly, without worrying, like most of us men have to do, about people telling him he is sexiest or whatever because he feels this or that way about women, so reading him is like having an intelligent and heartfelt dialogue with a man who won’t judge you or preach to you about what’s the right or wrong way to treat women.
And I am not American. And I am not middle age. And I am still thankful for his books.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/11/11/AR2006111101019_pf.html

Jim

Maud's certainly qualified to choose between books, no doubt about that. And I do want to point out that I recognize the fact that she had little control over which two books she was asked to judge.

Agenda was the wrong word, I think. Maybe, being a Whitehead admirer she was predisposed not to like Ford's novel after the spitting incident. I agree with anyone who says Ford was a baby about Whitehead's review.

And you could be right. Maybe I'm being too cynical. Yet, the question came to mind. Maud lets loose a little fury now and then, we've seen her respond to books she's disliked. It just seemed like more fury than we've seen.

Maybe she just hated the book, predispositions be damned.

Jim

Maud's certainly qualified to choose between books, no doubt about that. And I do want to point out that I recognize the fact that she had little control over which two books she was asked to judge.

Agenda was the wrong word, I think. Maybe, being a Whitehead admirer she was predisposed not to like Ford's novel after the spitting incident. I agree with anyone who says Ford was a baby about Whitehead's review.

And you could be right. Maybe I'm being too cynical. Yet, the question came to mind. Maud lets loose a little fury now and then, we've seen her respond to books she's disliked. It just seemed like more fury than we've seen.

Maybe she just hated the book, predispositions be damned.

Ms Baroque

Dear Ineluctable Quack,

Oh dear. Well, I wasn't about to say you were sexiest, anyway.

Steven Augustine

"...I have to say I have grown weary, and then worse than weary, of John Updike, Saul Bellow and Philip Roth, and their brand of sexist middle-aged male angst. It seems like old news. It's stale. And unpleasant. And the books are always too long."

I'm sure a Gay blind Chinese reader could make a similarly unfair assertion about Morrisson/Munro/Atwood not dealing often enough, or in enough detail, with Gay blind Chinese characters; he/she could dismiss all of those authors as wearyingly 'old news' as well.

And you'd probably think she/he was so wrapped up in the particulars of her/his identity that he/she was missing the point not only about the works of those writers but about the imaginative uses of Art in general.

And you'd be right.

ed

I'm a Whitehead admirer. I'm also a Ford admirer. I think Ford spitting at Whitehead was terrible. But that doesn't affect my appreciation of THE LAY OF THE LAND or the fact that I thought APEX HIDES THE HURT to be so-so.

I think what David O'Russell did to Lily Tomlin on the set of I HEART HUCKABEES is even more appalling than what Ford did, but I'll still defend THREE KINGS as a fantastic film, if you pressed me on it. But David O'Russell is, as far as I'm concerned, one of the biggest assholes working in Hollywood.

I'm also pretty confident that Maud doesn't judge work based on her preconceived notions of them. Because she's a lot smarter and more equitable than I am.

Ms Baroque

Steven, I found something so unsavoury in the last Philip Roth book I tried to read - The Human Stain - that it sort of scared me. He seemed so wrapped up in the particulars of his own, rather sheltered, world-view that I did think he failed to realise the possibilities - to see the imaginative bigness - of his theme.

Ditto Richard Ford, for whom I have the greatest respect, and by whom I treasure a couple of signed firsts. Please read my blog before you equate me to a solipsistic, unimaginative, gay, blind Chinese person.

The job of an artist - especially, I'd say, a novelist, who is after all attempting to record something rather complete of a world - should be to open out, expand, become bigger. Even a small, contained, reticent novelist like Henry Green - for example - is never self-justifying or narrow: his parlormaids breathe as much as anyone else. Am I so wrong for feeling disappointed that some writers I admired seemed unable (after a time - they were all brilliant in their youths) to do this? Became complacent in their own hyper-comfort and established world-views?

I was pleased to read what Maud wrote, although I haven't read Ford's new novel. I should add that Kate Atkinson is hardly in the same league, whether Ford fails (on some level, by some criteria) or not.

Dear me. I like this blog. I was just leaving a comment because I was interested!

Steven Augustine

"He seemed so wrapped up in the particulars of his own, rather sheltered, world-view..."

Considering that "The Human Stain" presents with vigor and empathy the worldviews of a light-skinned black classics professor passing (with tragic ramifications)as Jewish; an over-bred and comically structuralist French Academic fallen prey to the faddish seductions of American PC hysteria; a murderously resentful Vietnam vet; a middle-aged semi-survivor of abuse (and mother of two dead children) feigning illiteracy while working on the janitorial crew of a college campus...your judging this minor masterpiece (it stands in the shadow of Roth's stone-solid masterpiece "Sabbath's Theater") as "unsavoury" or the product of a "sheltered" (?) worldview or lacking in imaginative possibilities is not something I want to bother arguing about on the TEV comment thread. It's a beautiful, subtly-modulated and powerfully-written book that deserves a careful reading.

Ms Baroque

Oh, dear lord Steven, labels, labels, labels! They just come from the outside! I can assure you I always read carefully. I'm just saying I found the book's moral (that is, internal, not to do with labels) position unconvincing - that is, the main character's, and by extension the author's. If you like it I'm sure I'm happy for you. Good grief.

Anyway, it's been swell meeting you but I'm not interested in a flame war, so have a lovely day. (thanks TEV, you can have your post back now!)

genevieve

Oh boo hoo. Ford's knocked out. Bleep and bleep. Perhaps you'll have to delete my later comment, Mark, working down the page comme d'habitude. (

The comments to this entry are closed.

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."