November 19, 2007


tod goldberg

Let us not forget that you also said I "burbled": http://marksarvas.blogs.com/elegvar/2003/11/because_its_the.html

Jim Murdoch

The reason "the really prolific and distinguished writers" have so much to write about is that they do exactly that. It's the old principle from Ecclesiastes 3 that there is a time for everything.

They have learned what our parents tried to hammer into us that you can't do two things at the same time to which we responded by sticking a piece of chewing gum in our mouths and walking out the door taking care to slam it behind us of course.

Oh we knew it all didn't we.


It's been four damn years and I have burbled many times (and worse) in front of Mr. Sarvas. That he has not seen fit to apply the same standards to me that he has to Mr. Goldberg is a sure sign that I have either deposited the funds with the right bagman or that my natural gaffes are being seriously overlooked. Let the record show that I have burbled more times than Tod Goldberg and that I am tenfold more a killjoy.


Ah, one of the enduring joys of the internet - having one's own words around to forever haunt us. And Ed can certainly claim the Killjoy '07 crown. That was then, this is now, right?

Steven Augustine

Re: Who was Shakespeare when he was at home: my money is on Kit Marlowe. All the way. Faked his own death in that tavern, innit? Though my ex-ex-ex-ex-infinity (my cherry's thief, in fact), who teaches English at Georgetown (specializing in the Elizabethans) mocked me cruelly for't.

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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."