February 26, 2008


Nigel Beale

Ironic that Wood would admire the book for its style, and that you dislike it because a character lacks credibility...the very quality that Wood, in How Fiction Works, suggests,is essential to the good novel.

John Shannon

Not to worry about Kirkus. They're famous for being snotty to everyone. Even their positive reviews always have a nasty barb at the end.


Ah - so, so true and such honest words about reviewing. I've not had the good fortune (or terror) to review for the big boys, but that excitement at the outset and the horror that comes when you're halfway into the book and realize you don't like it is just plain crummy. The responsibility weighs heavy on my shoulders and I, like you, feel I must read everything they've ever read to do it justice.


Congratulations on the PW review. I'm looking forward to the book. And as a wise old (and frequently drunk) publishing hand told me 29 years ago, "Kirkus is always bad. Even when the others are good, it's bad." Since then I've repeated that about half a dozen times to first-time authors.


I've actually seen Kirkus praise some very inferior books, so I don't take what they say seriously. I don't think many people do. I think people like to make up their own mind about what to read.

Harriet Klausner? If it isn't a romance, in the "Harlequin" sense of the word, Harriet probably won't read it. LOL

Norris Wilson

Congratulations on the PW review. The absence of a starred or boxed review should not be taken as a slight. I have seen many starred or boxed reviews of books I believe are undeserving. It's a crapshoot, this reviewing business. The important thing, from a marketing aspect, is to grasp onto whatever kernel of positivity you can find in the text of the critique. In this respect, you have a highlighted a solid passage that, while not passionately supportive, is still pretty good. I've seen a lot worse, believe me. I wouldn't be depressed about this PW review at all. Good job!

The comments to this entry are closed.


  • 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."


  • The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald


    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


    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."