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August 03, 2004

Comments

birnbaum

Mark

You are now referring to the final final final
revision?

I'm on my way to check the Open Letter to Sam
Tanenhaus—lot's of fun there— but I couldn't pass by the righteous dither by the not -that -Moore guy.

Sometimes writers and even other people exaggerate to make a point. To both Moore and Fuentes I would keep in mind Chou En Lai's [Chou was the number 2 man in Red China] response when asked what he thought about the French Revolution, "Too soon to tell."

Michael Robertson Moore

I believe that was Chou En Lai's response to a question about the MEANING of the French Revolution, and he might have had a point. Though let's keep in mind Chou had a lot of blood on his hands and could hardly afford NOT to be a little casual about the comparatively small body count racked up by a piker like Robespierre.

Anyhow, I have a hard time imagining any respectable history book, in fifty, a hundred, or two hundred years' time, rating our invasion of Iraq as a greater catastrophe than Pol Pot's reign. Neither do I see any point to be made by that sort of hysterical exaggeration, except to whip into a frenzy those who are more than frenzied enough.

Michael Not-The Fat-F#@k-From-Flint-and-Hardly-a-Ditherer Moore

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TEV DEFINED


  • 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."

SECOND LOOK

  • The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald

    Bs

    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

    Rider_4

    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."