May 16, 2008



This is one of the biggest, baddest lists of awesome things in small packages that I've ever seen! It should be printed on little notecards or flyers and given to all writers. Or, something like that.

Paul Sweeney

Very cool list.


I agree about the Van Booy stories. No trace of irony here; they're downright earnest. Which makes the book some strange avant garde.


Thanks for the Future Tense mention, Jim. You had a pretty awesome run here at TEV. You've covered or reviewed/interviewed many of my recent faves: Simmons, Rose Metal Press, Kim Chinquee (Kim and the RMP book are my staff picks at Powell's this month), Donald Ray Pollack, Diane Williams. It's like you have ESP! Will you marry me?


Indeed. It actually makes me wish you had a lit blog of your own. Ever thought of starting one up?

elizabeth ellen

exactly my thoughts, jim...


Thanks, everyone!

Paul: I'm very interested in checking out the recommendation on FromBostontoBerlin of Paul Muldoon's essay collection.

Patrick: Avant garde yet accessible. An odd combination. Based on Good Reads reviews people either love him or are left cold.

Kevin: Sorry, I'm spoken for, but we definitely have to work something out Vermin-wise the nest time you're in L.A.!

Shya & Ellen: I appreciate your kind words. I work full-time and travel to LA from San Diego several times a month so updating a blog daily is out of the question, but you've inspired me to push myself and do more with the Vermin blog. Perhaps I could make interviews with upcoming readers a regular feature.

Dave Clapper

Thanks for the mention, Jim!

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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."