January 16, 2004



Thank you for having the insight and energy to outline why this was a load of crap. It was a like an audition for the part of person you'd least like to be stuck in a corner with at a party.


re: And someone who thinks ol’ Quentin is a “critic’s fave” can only be willfully ignoring the Kill Bill reviews… eh?


One particular comment in the post that struck me was the passing reference to British book people. The British literary "scene" is infected to a great degree with the faux populism that characterises the post itself -- an inability (or unwillingness) to make hard calls about the authenticity of a writer's work. Couple that with a strong book reviewing culture in the popular press, and you have a recepie for disaster: a huge number of reviews written with no care whatsoever for the fact that different books require (or, gasp, deserve) different kinds of reading.

Deb Smith

I rise from my shabby little literary ghetto (15 years spent writing pop fiction aka romance novels) to hoot at the pompous discussions taking place in your self-involved psuedo-important literary world. Blowhard is a hoot because, as you ably point out, his idea of slumming still carefully segregates acceptable slumming (reading self-help books, gasp!) from truly appalling slumming (reading romance novels and, in fact, any other type of fiction beloved by millions of women -- an interesting, highly sexist ommission, IMHO. As in "some pop books aren't even worth mentioning, especially if women like them.") But the arguments here at EV are equally pud-pulling and silly, because you continue to miss the Big Point: People who read are superior to all other people. It does not matter WHAT people read. Chekhov or Oprah, Dave Eggers or Nora Roberts. Reading people are superior human beings, and should be respected. Yet the self-ordained uppercrust of the literary world continues to do some Gollum-like impression of nobility, dissing every other kind of reader and insisting that there is only one Precious and it belongs to Me, only Me. How pathetic. Go ye and read a Harlequin.


Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. Thanks for writing this.

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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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