December 24, 2008



holy shit is that a great piece of writing.


Author Stephanie Hammer introduced me to Bolaño’s writing this past year. Abducted and mesmerized by his metafictional interpretation of political culture, Bolaño’s fictitious collection of rabid artists encrypted within “Nazi Literature in the Americas,” reminds us that the continents of the New World are infested with the self absorbed surrealism of Europe, and that the U.S. is, in fact, a willing participant in this dysfunctional culture of brutal art. I loved it!

Kat Meyer

Mark, thank you for sharing what is an incredibly moving, beautiful, poignant, and inspirational essay. 2666 has been sitting on my nightstand for weeks now. Staring disapprovingly at me - challenging me to pick it up. Francisco Goldman's words remind me that a reading a work of fiction should never be considered an assignment to begrudge, it is a very personal invitation from the author to each and every reader.

Similarly, when I was lucky enough to meet Francisco briefly at BEA in LA a few years ago, he was so kind and lovely that I jumped into "The Divine Husband" (a book I might otherwise have been intimidated by)mostly because the man who wrote it was so divine himself.

Thank you for this, and for all the posts on EV, Mark.

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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."


  • 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.
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