April 18, 2007


Jack Pendarvis

This is terrible news about Teresa Weaver. What are they thinking over there? I just called my publisher after reading this post, because the novelist Sheri Joseph and I have an AJC interview with Ms. Weaver scheduled soon. It turns out that Ms. Weaver is so entirely devoted to books that she is going ahead with the interview even though she has received this undeserved blow. If I were her, I'd just say "Screw it," but she really cares about us Atlanta writers. What are we going to do without her? She ran a very smart book page.


In light of the fact that book-blogging has become rather widespread, why is it such a cause for dismay when newspaper book sections decline? I would think that the decline in column inches devoted to book coverage in newspapers, is more than offset by the rise in book coverage in blogs.

Jack Pendarvis

Right. What was I thinking? Hooray for "blogs"! Whoopee! Let's all clink our glasses together and dance a merry gavotte. Tra la la la la!

Jack Pendarvis

Now if we can just get rid of all these darn books, too, we'll have it made.

Jessica Handler

Atlanta continues to embarrass itself culturally and economically. As a writer and a nearly lifelong Atlantan, I am humiliated for my city and its "leading" newspaper. What a piece of s**t that paper has become, and no one there apparently cares. Who needs literacy, reporting, and culture when you can have contests in the paper about who has the cutest dog costume?


The difference, James, is that when I write an 800 word review for a newspaper, I take copious notes when reading them, meticulously organize these in a Word file, write, rewrite, and rewrite so that I sound thoughtful and reasonably clear and, if I'm lucky, get good feedback from an editor (assuming she has the time).

Whereas if I write a blog entry, it takes me twenty seconds to write, "Scarlett Thomas! Cool dudes!"

So yeah, I'd say that mourning the loss of a newspaper offering quality literary coverage, or indeed taking the time to write an email expressing why this is a foolish idea, is a pretty damn apposite thing to do right now -- until we can see some litblogging network of editors, vetters, and grammatical tweakers that can offer the same kind of quality that newspapers can. (And I say this as a litblogger and a litblog supporter.) I'm sorry I never got to write for the AJ-C and I hope that Teresa lands on her feet. She deserves it.

King Wenclas

Gosh, a lot of finger pointing, at everyone but the reviewers themselves. Who is really to blame if members of the general public aren't reading book review sections?
For that matter, who is to blame for the much-noted decline in readership of short stories also?
Shouldn't we point the finger at the stories and reviews themselves-- and by extension, at those who write them?
This isn't to argue for a decline in "quality."
On the contrary, it's to argue FOR quality-- for compelling writing, whether in a short story or a review, which DEMANDS to be read.
If the well-trained conformist writers who dominate literature aren't providing such work, they have no one to blame but themselves.
(Which ultimately leaves the door open for those who will provide it.)
(Or, your definition of "quality" doesn't work.)


Your unemployment check is in the mail, King.

Jack Pendarvis

Thanks, King Wenclas! I enjoy your hymn! It's one of my favorites. I'm going to take your advice and try to write some good short stories next time! Why didn't I think of it before? You're the wind beneath my wings, King Wenclas!

Jack Pendarvis

I just want to go ahead and apologize for being snippy with King Wenclas in my former comment. Sometimes the internet makes me all giddy with excitement and I type too rapidly and hit the "send" button with a certain vigor. We can all have our own opinions! Okay! This is my last comment ever on someone else's blog. I'm afraid I don't know how to do it right! I still like newspapers with book pages. But if there are some people who want to take up for the giant media conglomerates, good for them! Everyone needs solace. Who's going to put a tender arm around the giant news corporations? See? This is why I can't comment on blogs anymore. It comes out all wrong. Goodbye!


Mr. Pendarvis, you have the Best Blog Ever!

(My apologies to the person behind this blog for my certain breach of blog etiquette.)

The comments to this entry are closed.


  • 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."