January 31, 2005


Angela Stubbs

Touche. Damn, I can't get my keyboard to add proper accents! I pull out that Book Review every Sunday and like Tod, find that there is minimal fiction and often many authors, I've not yet heard of. I too, consider myself to be well read but end up second guessing that when I look at the LA times Book Review.

It'd be great to get a fresh look at some literature that is worthy of reviewing.


Somewhat ashamed, somewhat pleased to say I don't even read it anymore unless someone links to it. I haven't seen an ink version since the Orwell centennial. Does it atill arrive upside-down in the Calendar section? This is not a catty question, merely an honest one...


Agree about Wasserman. Met him a few times and he was as condescending as his section.


The paper up the road (so to speak) the SF Chronicle has a worthy book section, if that helps...


As someone outside of LA (and for whom the Times stands walled behind registration) I'm wondering if there are examples of the type of fiction the section is covering?

At this point I'm just curious as it sounds like it is disappointing so many good readers.


CAAF...fiction? Only if there isn't another history of Hollywood to review. Actually, this week was good for fiction -- it was time for the monthly crime fiction page o'reviews (hey, did you know Dashiell Hammett wrote this stuff? Four re-releases reviewed). The cover story is on females and boxing (the LAT is all over this story this week).

The sad thing is, except for the Hammett stuff, I totally forgot what I read just a few days ago. I couldn't even begin to guess what was reviewed the week before.

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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."