February 25, 2008



I'd really like to see Wood review a work written by a female author one of these rounds. He is batting .000 there now, which is becoming distressing as it seems to say that only work by male authors, whether positively or negatively received, is significant enough to merit his critical attention.

Amateur Reader

Here's a Wood review of a female author, from the Carey/Kunzru piece:

“My Revolutions” does not have the brittle elegance of Dana Spiotta’s spectacular novel about American radicalism of the nineteen-seventies, “Eat the Document.”

It's a rave! Batting .001 now.


Very much a fair cop, CAAF. Something he should be asked about, for sure. I know he's championed Monica Ali but is that it for living females? Actually, I think Spark was alive when he touted her. Still, not much of a track record, to be sure.


Oops, to clarify: I meant since he's been at the New Yorker. Where I think the mention of Spiotta's novel, quoted here by Amateur Reader, is about it.

As I said, it's not even whether he positively or negatively receives the work, it's having him write about it in the first place. Even a negative review can be a sign of arrival and being taken seriously. But to your list of championed living authors, TEV, I think he gave Munro the glowing treatment once as well ...

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."