December 20, 2006



I'll take a deeper look at the lost later, but sadly I see it's YET ANOTHER no mention for Simon Ings. _The Weight of Numbers_ was by far the best novel I read in 2006 and it didn't make one mention in anyone's 'best of' list. I thought Lionel Shriver would nail it, as she had early praise for it, but didn't.
it's not out in the US until Spring, so hopefully it will hit some people’s radar then.
Ings initially wrote science fiction but 'Weight' is a stellar, non-SF book. Read it.

Josh Kendell

A kind of funny list. There are some starkly good selections, such as Edward Falco, Laird Hunt and then some just plain silly selections: Tao Lin, Elizabeth Ellen, Benjamin Fuckin' Kunkel (?) Fine writers as they are, these writers are so new that the cellophane is still clinging to their teeth. The genre of unappreciated writers I think must include years, nay, decades of neglect after publication. I'm thinking of the likes of Zora Neale Hurston, John Okada, James Pudy, William Faulkner prior to the Portable Willam Faulkner -- Benjamin Fuckin' Kunkel? Juezz.


Ian Banks is under-represented in the US? I had no idea; I learn something new about market preferences every day. Here in Canada you can't throw a stone without hitting a dozen volumes. His books occupy whole shelving units in our big box stores, like some kind of British John Grisham.


August: I have a number of Iain Banks volumes in my stacks. Most of them were given to me or came to me used. And at least in San Francisco, the man simply ain't getting bookstore representation.

may barber

What Josh said. Some of those names included on the list (the ones with cellophane still clinging to their teeth) seems to demonstrate that the blogosphere is every bit as prone to buddy-buddy logrolling as our traditional media friends. Tao Lin? Seriously. This guy is going to reveal himself as an Ann Coulter-style postmodern exaggeration of a "writer" any day now.

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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."