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July 11, 2008

Comments

Ted

I look forward to your reaction to his other books as I loved this one too but haven't read them. Hans Across The Water? Ouch.

Mrinal Bose

Why is there no entry about the "Best of the Booker" award? Do you hate it?

Mrinal Bose

Why is there no entry about the "Best of the Booker" award? Do you hate it?

doubting jimmy

Not to be a jerk, and not to douse water on what has been a universally acclaimed novel, but I have to say, little on earth surprises me less than the fact that James Wood loves this book. It's about a Londoner transplant to NYC who is in love with a disappearing 19th century totem; it is about lost grandeur, it harkens back to a great book from another time. All stuff that Wood pretty much creams himself over. I mean, yeah, great, it's super that he's praising a book he's excited about. But at the same time: big stretch.

Then again, I guess it's better than when he reviews something like Lush Life and embarrasses himself trying to explain why the dialogue is good.

There: vent over.

Steven Augustine

Yes, and Anthony Minghella would surely have directed the film of the book had he lived; tastefully unchallenging soundtrack available at your local Starbucks.

Paul

"It's about a Londoner transplant to NYC who is in love with a disappearing 19th century totem"

Actually, the narrator is from Holland. And what is the 'disappearing 19th century totem' he is supposedly in love with?

Andrew

The narrator is Dutch; the writer Irish;the '19th century totem'? I'm lost. The Chelsea Hotel perhaps. The Minghella crack is, I suppose, a dig at cricket, a game still popularly misunderstood in America as genteel, costume-drama-ish, a bit Ralph Lauren. Not any more, as O'Neill knows and shows.
O'Neills descriptive prose and the acuity of his depiction of the narrator's marriage - either of these would qualify the book as a triumph, with no need to bring in the post 9/11 context or the Gatsbyan echoes.

lee wooldridge

i hope you have all had a good day? i just spotted this page and will be adding it to my favs, i probaly missed the deadline for this competition but would love to get a signed us copy. i met joseph and what a lovely person he was, i wish him all the best on his netherland book, regards

nicole

Kept my promise to order the book right away, finally picked it up and also read it in three gulps. Wow. "Post-9/11 literature" is usually a concept that makes me roll my eyes but O'Neill has done it right.

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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

    Bs

    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

    Rider_4

    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."