July 20, 2010


Cynthia Haven

Glad to hear your voice again, Mark.

Susan K. Perry

Happy to hear that. We'll try to be patient.


Kirn's comments seem valid, though I haven't read enough of Wallace to judge. Still, detail, not matter how brilliantly, extravagantly displayed, can clog the arteries of a narrative, for me, at least.


Good show, old man.


Miss you! Hope you're getting to watch a bit of the Tour.


Glad to hear it.

Asha Vose

I would still love to help you out with the blog.


your readers are eagerly waiting, Mark! don't give up on US!


i thought wyatt mason's article was very perceptive. i think dfw was frequently misunderstood and continues to be.


Woof! (that's canine for keep it up)


dfw doesn't ever seem to have figured out dfw


Dave was never hard to figure out. He told you exactly what he was thinking. He wanted to live as a mythological, heroic figure in the media. He wanted to be regarded as intelligent, informed person because that was a better alternative to reveling the other side, the anguish, the self-doubt, the dualism of his daily existence. The more he thought himself a fraud, the more special he was and vice-versa. He suffered to know his self, other selves, if a self even existed, whether we all lived lives in quiet desperation, and finally he decided these questions led him to the same answer – he had to radically forget the questions and the tormenting, ubiquitous “I” experience which plagued and blessed his writing.

steven gillis

Look forward to future posts. As for DFW - the man was no fraud as a writer. Infinite Jest is one of the great books in my opnion in the last 50 years. But we all think of ourselves with great angst and doubt. It is the nature of the beast. Failure to understand this dychotomy is what leaves us with lingering depression. To try and accept and move forward daily, its the best any of us can do. Onward - Steve

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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."