May 05, 2005


Sebastian Morningwood

Whatever you do, don't assign any reviews to the Underground Literary Alliance. They are a bunch of fancy pants "outsiders" who think they are so smart because they went to community college.

The ULA has been attacking the greatest work of underground writing by a living writer, "The Heat of My Pockets" by Orlando Hotpockets, a retarded alcoholic who wrote the book in his own blood on a roll of toilet paper. Unlike the ULA, who go to fancy parties, Orlando Hotpockets was raised by lice-infested timber wolves in upstate Michigan. He is bad, like Shaft.

Melissa Lo

I couldn't agree with you more about James Wood. I was fortunate enough to take a class with him during my last semester of college and his outlook on literature made me love reading again! I had been bombarded with art historical jargon and the cultural implications of text and textuality, and I remember that he simply had us read Naipaul's _A House for Mr. Biswas_ for both tragedy and comedy. And it made everything that much more relevant! I really believe he himself loves writing and it interested in how writers render their world -- and it's absolutely refreshing.


11) Take credit for Homeland's success.

Perry Middlemiss

So when do you start?


Wonderful suggestions all! Especially dumping Weber. Your weekly reviews of the LAT Book Review have usually been better than the review itself.

David Ehrenstein

Seeing that you're opposed to anything with the slightest resemblance to serious thought
("long-winded self-important reviews of obscure academic and/or pedantic
political titles which will sell fewer than 5000 500 copies anyway") and revel in the joys of the neo-fascist Mosh Pit ("Pithy and rude shall be the order of
the day") only one question remains -- Why do you care about the
Los Angeles Times Book review at all?

Dave Belnap

A fine, thoughtful list. Your No. 2 would be my No. 1 by a country mile. Susan Reynolds' perspectives and writing rank right alongside the best of those practicing elsewhere in the country, and I speak of such standouts as Dirda and Yardley of the Washington Post.

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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."