May 23, 2011


Paul Lamb

I suspect there was much more going on behind that contretemps than the public will ever likely know.

(The Other) Niall

Callil gives a more considered opinion here:


There are great moments in Roth's work. He is clever, harsh, comic, but his reach is narrow. Not in the Austen, Bellow or Updike sense, because they use a narrow canvas to convey the widest concepts and ideas. Roth digs brilliantly into himself, but little else is there. His self-involvement and self-regard restrict him as a novelist. And so he uses a big canvas to do small things, and yet his small things take up oceanic room.

Rough justice, perhaps. But some justice nonetheless.

David Clarke

As far as publishers not even promoting his work in 20 years, Ms. Callili might notice that all of Roth's work dating back to the late 50s is still in print. As to being narrow, that's a rather limited judgment. It only applies if you think Celine or Gide narrow. In fact, Gide's dictum that 'the more individual one becomes the more universal one becomes' is applicable. If Roth's viability as a writer were so narrow it's highly unlikely his work would be in translation in so many languages.

ward jones

When you lift it you might mention the Wodehouse, and Super Sad's not so sad author.

Islamic Scholars

I made it clear that I wouldn't have put him on the longlist, so I was amazed when he stayed there.

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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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