November 15, 2007


Eric Banks

Wow Mark! You are FAST! Thanks for the kind words, Eric

Brett Yates

Thanks for bringing this up -- I didn't expect a new issue of Bookforum (which I just recently started reading) for another two weeks, and I probably wouldn't have checked till then. I'm not a big fan of Banville, but his piece on pulp fiction was cool. It makes me think I should probably read his crime novel.


From that Bookforum... I didn't know NBCC president Freeman lived with a literary agent, especially one with such prominent authors. Does that mean he recuses himself from reviewing Safran Foer, Diaz, Danticat, etc?

Steven Augustine

I dunno. If Coetzee had chosen to work a little more on either the essayistic layer of "Bad Year" or on the plotty bit, I'd have been happier with the result. I found quite a few of the essays under-worked (a handful quite interesting, though) and the triangular dynamics of the plotty bit self-serving. The deck's rather stacked against Alan...I won't even mention the echoes of (in my opinion the far superior) "The Counterlife". What am I missing here?


To address hpp's concern, John Freeman is, by my findings, an ethical reviewer on this point.

John Freeman

Hpp -- to answer your question, sadly, yes, which is a shame because it means no more Colson Whitehead, Thuy Le The Diem, Edwidge Danticat, Viktor Pelevin, Jonathan Safran Foer, Junot Diaz. It also means I've had to recuse myself in voting at the NBCC sometimes. Occasionally, an English or overseas newspaper will ask me to interview one of Nicole's clients -- Jonathan Safran Foer, say -- and have said go ahead after I explain the connection. But I don't seek those assignments out.


Zeroville was fantastic. One of Erickson's best. I recently conducted an in depth interview with Erickson over at ChuckPalahniuk.net
He gives some great answers:



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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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    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.
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