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January 29, 2008

Comments

Michael O'D

This business seems silly to me. The article says that Amis is getting a salary of £80,000 (or just under $160,000) per year from the university. That's not an outlandish figure for a superstar professor. I wonder what Harvard Law School pays Alan Dershowitz and Charles Ogletree, who spend most of their time not giving lectures or grading papers but writing bestselling pop non-fiction. I can tell you it's a lot more than $160,000 a year. Music schools in our country pay HUGE salaries to superstar performers (like soprano Silvia McNair at Indiana University) in return for a masterclass or two and a recital. They must find that the investment pays off.

Just so here. If Amis's university admits just five extra students who want to go to a school where Amis teaches, the salary will be paid back several fold.

Steven Augustine

But, Michael, bashing Amis for *whatever* he does, at this point (can't wait until we find out he's been bonking the au pair), is such risk-free fun!

Kingsley

Presumably Amis is spending time reading his students' work as well. So I doubt he's spending an hour a week at work. More like five or six hours a week.

Jude Bloom

The last time around, all the bitching was about all the piles of filthy money he was receiving so he could get a tooth job for a new wife. Of course, in reality he had cancer of the jaw and was eating his fish and chips through a straw.

Slagging authors is nothing new, but I can't remember another writer who's been hit with the money thing so often. I don't know why this is. I mean, I dunno, when's the last time you went in for a job and didn't ask to be paid as much as you thought you could get them to pay you? Athletes -- this is not a joke -- will soon be measuring their career earnings in *billions*.

I say pay every single writer out there as astronomically as you can get away with. Good on 'em.

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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

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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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    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."