February 27, 2008


Steven Augustine

"Critique is a noun. If you want a verb, try criticise."

I'm confident there's justice in quibbling with that.

blue cave

So i m guessing no gay love story could take the vote of the president of the judging panel for Le Prince Maurice prize for literary love stories.....
Gay or Heterosexual, love is love!


btw, the P&W piece is not with Tom Wolfe, but Tobias Wolfe


Sorry, elcalifornio, you are incorrect. From the first page:

True to form, she ducked the opportunity to take any personal credit, replying, “I can barely believe my great good fortune in being able to work with Tom Wolfe again. His new novel will be both an enormous amount of fun and an important reckoning with our times, as readers know to expect of Tom.”


Apologies Mark,

I was mistaken by the cover article, which concerns Tobias not Tom. Didn't realize two Wolfes were discussed in one mag. I guess they're not so extinct anymore.


Thanks for linking to my Nextbook piece! (And for the Economist link, which I just bookmarked with tragic relish.)


Funny, I just read another essay (the manifesto featured today in LROD) that talks about the dearth of love in short fiction today, and it asks for C Michael Curtis' view...


That Economist style guide is excellent. Thanks for the link. As someone who often writes quickly and thus inaccurately, I'm amazed when I go back in for a "tight edit" and find that I can kill 70% of the words and lose none of the meaning.


Love stories? "Strides" by Stephen Foster is one of the best novels of the 1990s, and it's a classic love story as well as a great novel. I've written a review of it: just click the "Nugae" link below.


"Triggering the Grand Irrationality?"

Cowering in an obscure corner of the food pyramid

somewhere between the tofu and the unflavored yogurt

contemplating the juxtaposition of intangibles for all you are worth.....


gerber, that essay must explain why i keep turning back to the vintage classics in paperback. i am a bit distraught at the implications it makes, however: that a writer like scott fitzgerald would not be supported/published today. are we all that stupid?

tod goldberg

Last week, when Amy Hempel spoke at the Hammer, she said that every short story could be titled "The Day I Was Sad" (she's also said every story could be called "Christmas") and perhaps that speaks larger to the issue of missing love in contemporary fiction than anything else. I think the last novel I read that actually dealt with love was On Chesil Beach. And, well, I can't say I liked it.

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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."