April 11, 2005


John Shannon

Any reason for reposting this? It was originally up at 8 am unless I'm hallucinating. You just want to get it "above the fold" on your site?

Dan Green

a) You are surely right about the Epstein review. b) I was able to access the LATBR online this week. What's happening?

paul terwelp

I think you should give up trying to make a silk purse out of a sows ear.
I am leaning toward the gentleman who wrote into the NY Times Book review a few weeks ago saying he would be not wasting his time there anymore, but reading the New York Review of Books.
You and other serious liturature people should consider doing the same.


Mark & Dan — I feel as if we read different versions of the Epstein review of Born Losers ( a bookj that has been staring out at me from one of the hillocks of books that adorn my residence).

I didn't take it as sneering anti intellectual and found the reference to Thoreau as the Great Kvetch of Walden Pond in keeping with Joe Epstein's jokey,and loose style. Granted , Epstein is a conservative but he is not (in anything I have read by him) a mean spirited man.

And I thought Fabulous Small Jews was a great story collection mournfully underappreciated

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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.
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