March 05, 2008



TEV- The more I reflect on the books I've read over the last year, the more this one emerges as the favorite. Because it's such a strange book, I've had a hard time figuring out which friends to recommend it to; I'd be curious to see a post on your response, when you're done. Also: it seems unfair to line this one and Tree of Smoke up in the same Rooster bracket!

Mark R

Are Readers somehow bigger than readers, is Criticism more important than criticism, and is the Great Vastness anywhere near the Planet Arse?


Garth, I agree. Savage Detectives and Tree of Smoke are perfect for the final round of TOB.

I've been recommending Bolano to pretty much everybody I know, but mostly to some artist friends. And my wife, to whom I recommend it every day. I'm just hoping that when she gets around to it, it's as good as I've made it out to be.

TEV, you've got a tricky bracket, but then how can you go wrong?


Does anyone have any information on a work called "Consejos de un discípulo de Morrison a un fanático de Joyce" ["Advice from a Morrison Disciple to a Joyce Fanatic"]. According Wikipedia it was written and/or published in 1984, but I'd love to read it.

Steven Augustine

Savagely ungainsayable excerpt.


my bets are on 'savage detectives' for the win. my only gripe with the rooster is that they overlooked another of my favorite books that i read this year, per petterson's 'out stealing horses'. i felt that these two books were two of the best books i've read in the last 5 years.

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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."