May 14, 2007



I would look to The Indian Clerk for a new perspective on Ramanujan from what is already out before.

Jack Pendarvis

Dear Mr. Variation, Also try Ms. Davis's book BREAK IT DOWN. The title says it all. She breaks it down, baby! (I apologize for calling you baby.)

Kate Durbin

I'd possibly be interested in interning for/helping you, though it would have to be after May is over.

Unless you were just jesting. :-)

Oh yes, and I'm the person who wrote the Chris Abani article, in case you didn't recognize my name.

Richard Lewis

Thanks for the alert on THE INDIAN CLERK. I love books (fiction and nonfiction) on mathematics and mathematicians. Matter of fact, I'd rather be a world class mathematician then a major award winning author. I'd be discovering theorems never before known, and for as long as there is mathematics I'd forever known as the discoverer of them, whereas in writing, there's nothing new under the sun, and it's such a crap shoot, you know?


The Indian Clerk does look interesting. Thanks. I only wonder -- It is published by Bloomsbury also the publishers of your debut novel. At the risk of sounding like a school principal, shouldn't you therefore recuse yourself from reviewing the book?


You're quite right - I could never review it for a newspaper or in any formal capacity. But my connection to the publisher - which actually goes deeper; we share an editor - doesn't prevent me from being enthusiastic about it here, provided I'm up front about the connections when/if I take it up here.

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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."


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    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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