July 27, 2009



I think Nicholson Baker's take on the K2 is pretty fair. I was disappointed to hear that the contrast on the K2 is worse, because the contrast on my K1 is super sharp and very readable.

He mentions, but doesn't seem to understand the significance of, the Kindle as a widget that plugs you into the wider Amazon-o-sphere, giving you access to reviews, lists, and much, much more. Whatever you think of Amazon's "world", the fact remains this integration is the prototype for all e-readers of the future. You will no longer be reading a single, lonely book. You will be reading that book as part of a larger, instantly accessible, community of fellow readers and writers.

I may not have read the article with complete care, but I don't think he mentions the publishing revolution afforded by Kindle. Right now Kindle is offering e-versions of books that have already been traditionally published. But publishing directly to Kindle is going to be more and more common, and provide even more of a boost to self-publishing, which Amazon has also been aggressively pursuing.

One last thought. I think how people respond to the Kindle will depend a lot on whether they are already used to reading documents onscreen, and are able to dispense with reading a printed copy. I made that transition a decade ago. But if you're still used to printing everything out to read it, Kindle will be more of a change for you, and therefore perhaps more disorienting.


have the giveaway winners been announced yet?


Cronenberg + DeLillo = delicious!

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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.
  • 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."