August 24, 2005


G. Whyte

So what, if I may ask? Gaiman has a lot of loyal readers, after all. Or are you just pissed that you weren't mentioned? I don't stop by here very often but I get the impression that you're mostly concerned with your own fame. Trying to build an empire on the internet has to be frustrating.


Well, if you don't stop here often, then your assessment of my motives can't count for much can it? If you did pay attention to things, you'd note that nearly every piece on author blogs focuses on the same author - Gaiman. And if you paid attention, you might have the impression that what I'm mostly concerned with is literary (versus genre) fiction. But it appears that paying attention isn't one of your priorities; you're much more interested in posting snotty, ill-informed comments.


Mr. Whyte: Thank you for coming out of the woodworks and revealed the truth! Ever since I first met Mark, I've spent hours on the phone every day trying to deflate his elephantine ego (perhaps a total of 20 hours each week). I really don't mind this, largely because I'm a guy who likes to take on a pet project.

Yet despite my noble efforts (which have included enrolling Mr. Sarvas in Egomaniacs Anonymous), his hubris remains unabated, well on display for readers who drop on by and fail to read more than three posts.

If Mark comes across as too egotistical, then as his assigned caretaker, I would urge you to assign all blame to me.


Just came across your post. I wrote that column you linked to, and I just wanted to clarify that information on blogging is still rare in the Indian media. Consequently, the few columns (like mine) that do talk about blogging/recommend sites probably seem a bit naive to experienced bloggers. Further, SFF doesn't have much of a following in India yet, so Gaiman is still a relatively unknown name. That's why I thought it was worth drawing attention to him.


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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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    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."