September 08, 2004


Jimmy Beck

fookin scousers...


What a terribly enlightened post... No, but seriously what is your problem here? Sure you've had a bad experience at the age of 16 involving someone who may or may not have come from Liverpool, but apart from that, what exactly are you trying to tell us? Okay, so this man might not have behaved differently if he had read 'Holes' but there is a possibility that he might have done. You seem to be suggesting that this "let's all read the same book" silliness, is nothing more than silliness, but consider if this man had read 'Holes', then the two of you would have something in common. You would have some shared experience rather than your current prejudices and his desire to "body-check" you. I'm not saying that had he read the book he would decide to take you for coffee instead, sit you down and discuss the motivations of the central characters or anything like that, but what I think is true, is that by encouraging this man to read – read anything – he would realise why this kind of behaviour was unacceptable. Now, I'm sure you'll agree, that man is probably unlikely at present to go out on his own and read 'Holes'. However, with this "let's all read the same book" silliness, which will target people like him, he might at least be tempted. A scheme like this surely will help to break down prejudices, help this man to realise that reading is not the sole reserve of people like you, and who knows, might even allow someone like you to realise that 'grim sailor type's aren't so very different from yourself.

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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."