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September 12, 2006

Comments

Kurt Zumdieck

Rhetorical spasms is usually what a drunk's brain resorts to when challenged on the facts. Unfortunately, Hitchens will be viewed by history as a minor talent and an epic sellout.

Kit Stolz

It's too late for Hitchens to change tack. He should have opened his eyes to the chaos in Baghdad after the fall, or to Abu Ghraib, or to fact that the middle-class is fleeing Iraq, or to any number of unhappy facts on the ground in the Middle East. But he's not that nimble (unlike, for example, Andrew Sullivan). Saddam is all that seems to matter to him.

For those of us who used to enjoy his writing on other topics, it's a little sad that he's tied himself to the worth of regime change in Iraq, because that ship is going down, and with it, his reputation.

ae (arse poetica)

I so used to enjoy Hitch. And he's fascinating still, if only as a living, breathing example of the walking wounded. I keep thinking I'll learn something about how, how, how one flips the switch like this and turns into a war cheerleader. Was he literally frightened out of his wits on September 11? He's nimble enough rhetorically to spin himself into knots and take every side. I don't expect the rhetorical fireworks to go anytime soon. That he has in spades. It's the lack of humility that's everyone's loss.

B C

Personally, I'm more tsk-tsky over the drunk jokes and the sweeping statements about how all of Kingdom Come will remember Christopher Hitchens. As if anyone could possibly know.

Hitch-bashing seems to have become quite the bloodsport these days. Wha?- did we Bleeding Hearts run out of Bush-dyslexia cracks? It only took us six years! Now onto the serious business of getting our conspiracy theories straight and our Human Rights agendas integrated and our media mouthpieces all on the same freaking page.

No offense, but this young bookworm will take any "drink-sodden, former Trotskyish popinjay" over a merely reflexive alternative.

(And if one more tweedy twat offers up Chomsky...)

Sigh.

Sorry, guys. Back to working on my jaded eye. :-)

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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."