September 06, 2011



Said to myself, this is the summer of reading the ladies. So I started with some Joan Didion fiction and non-fiction; some Marilynne Robinson non-fiction (Death of Adam and Absence of Mind: which I'm still chewing on); and just started Torri Patterson's novel, This Vacant Paradise.

I'll admit some Pinsky and Collier poetry crept in, but that's okay, right?


The Naive and The Sentimental Novelist; The Museum of Innocence; My Name is Red (Pamuk). The Gift; Lolita (Nabokov). Madame Bovary (Flaubert). The Perpetual Orgy: Flaubert & Madame Bovary (Llosa). Joseph Andrews (Fielding).
Well, I must admit that I didn't finish Joseph Andrews, and I don't think I'll ever go back to it.


Scott Horton had an interesting interview with Harold Bloom at the Harper's website.
That's where I learned about The Anatomy of Influence: Literature as a Way of Life, but when I got my hands on a copy I only had time to read the first 30 pages and the section (around page 300something) concerning my favorite living poet, John Ashbery. Bloom often trades academic nuance for straightforward critical assertiveness, but my fanboyism meshes with his fanboyism so I enjoyed it immensely.

I raided a Borders (RIP) on the verge of oblivion to complete my Sandman collection, and I had fun arguing whether Gaiman or Alan Moore is the superior graphic novelist.

To celebrate JW's season of the ladies, I visited the New York Public Library just before the Ireneocalypse and viddied a first edition (1818) of the greatest published work ever written by a female, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. It was on display a few paces from a 1608 edition of King Lear. I was in literary nerd heaven.

I'm now working on Christopher Hitchens's 2 new collections of his old stuff.

David M

Greetings. I truthfully found this blog by google search for best blogs, not sure if I might even condescend to enjoy one, but arriving at this one seems to fill out the corners of pleasant surprise. This summer was the in which seeing Infinite Jest on the bookshelf one more time threatened to turn art into fiction, so i started that and also dabbled H. Bloom's Anatomy. Kundera's Lightness, The Help, That Used to Be Us, Origins of Political Order by Fukuyama. I'll be sure to check into yours, now, Mr. Sarvas.


This summer, I read (& liked): On Black Sisters Street (Chika Unigwe), All Other Nights (Dara Horn), The Ice Princess (Camilla Lackburg). I also read (& LOVED): Armadillo (William Boyd)---Boyd is a master of the witty, psychological, literary thriller and creates very real characters. I first read Ordinary Thunderstorms, then Brazaville Beach and Restless. Out of order, I know, but still sublime---The Silent Land (Graham Joyce), America Pacifica (Anna North)---a very strong debut---and The Last Werewolf (Glen Duncan). These last three in particular were SO good, I have been recommending them to everyone I know.

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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."