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August 30, 2006

Comments

PaulSweeney

Can't wait to get that advance review on the new Banville. I am only now three quarters through The Sea, and loving it.

tod goldberg

The Horned Man was a most unusual book -- I alternately loved and hated it for the very reasons you mention. But Lasdun clearly has a ton of talent. What you need to do with all you free time is pick up Daniel Woodrell's Winter's Bone. You can read it in 2 hours, but it's better if you let it take a couple days. Searing stuff.

Gayla

I didn't care so much for The Horned Man, but I loved Seven Lies. It's my favorite of the Booker longlist that I've read so far.

I'm eager to read both the Prose and the Mendelson books.

Alex

Re your comment on Francine Prose's book: Permissions for such a book must already have cost an arm and a leg, and to include longer excerpts would have been extremely costly. Publishing houses charge for use of text from their books based on how long the selection is, among other things. Besides, with longer excerpts, the book would have been quite long! Hopefully she inspires some readers to go out and buy the sources of some of the excerpts!

David Worsley

I really liked both Lasdun's novels, but your caveats are valid. Horned Man was a bit muddier than Seven Lies, but he writes beautiful sentences. I'll read everything he writes.
And wow, how good is Winter's Bone!
I need to get the earlier stuff, now.
Nice one, Mark.

TEV

Winter's Bone is here in one of the piles somewhere. I'll pull it out today. And I did mean to mention that of two Lasdun titles, I did think Seven Lies was the better one.

And Alex, you make a fine point. Thanks.

Shannon Burke

Dumas is the master of the action novel. If you look at someone like Robert Louis Stevenson, or even Walter Scott, the interest lags in the second half--telegraphed scenes leading to a predictable conclusion. That doesn't happen with the best Dumas. I think it's a question of having the perfect balance of action and character. You've read The Count of Monte Cristo, right? I mean, Three Musketeers is good, but the Count of Monte Cristo is the best action/ suspense novel of all time, or, at least, the best that I know of.

Also, can't wait to read the Banville. I just finished The Untouchable on your reccomendation and was blown away.

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TEV DEFINED


  • 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."

SECOND LOOK

  • The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald

    Bs

    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

    Rider_4

    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."