July 24, 2008



Just because, I'd like to point out that going the last link is worth it; this is because Mr. Wood himself has already OWNED the writer of that ridiculous post in the comments. Ah, the Internets.

Jacob Russell

First--Woods is way too subtle and rhetorically evasive (his objective reasoning regularly ionizes into wonderfully timed applications of affective solvents) to dismiss with simplistic labels. There is no rigorous consistency there, such that one could make such labels stick: he's a well read reactive writer who seduces readers into taking him as a thinker, which he is NOT.

That any writer with a minimally developed sense of dignity, independence, and self-respect, would not recoil in horror at the mere suggestion of bending their light to the gravity of Mr. Wood's star... baffles me. I would certainly not be inclined to seek out work produced by minds of such servile humility.


Young *cough* writers?

Dan Wickett

Jim Ruland for President!

Steven Augustine

To borrow some of what Jacob R. says: I delight in the way Wood invariably sticks his fingers in his ears and la-la-las the *real* criticism in order to assert, once again, with flaring nostrils, that he's perfectly adequate at doing what everyone already concedes he does best. Knowing that Wood himself banks his critical authority in the mighty fortress of his dandified phrase-making (takes one to know one), who would claim, seriously, that he's got a jihad on for plain style?

That's not the problem at all. The problem is one of hubris (or ambition, or both), since Wood can't seem to understand why *his* list of Dogs and Foxes isn't *everybody's*. Would it kill him and his minions to admit that he, like everyone else in the history of litcrit, is merely arguing his preferences?

This all-or-nothing bid for ubiquity will cost him, I predict. Remember that old popstar who shot to the top on the awesome flamboyance of his limits, and, at his peak, felt very much like he'd be around forever... ?

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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."