October 06, 2008



Is Banach running for office or something? I'm noticing a lot of stenatorian phrasing the last couple of weeks, as if by just listening to all these politicans our daily speech is starting to settle into rigidity. I'll let W.S. Burroughs have a say in this: He is not a person, he is a person impersonator.

Jacob Silverman

Give her a break. As a writer, her words certainly resonated with me, and I appreciate the effort (and the rhetoric) put into their expression.

Brett Yates

I know Banach didn't mean any harm, but this post really didn't sit well with me at all.

I discussed it on my blog. Click on my name for a link.


Writer as junkie. I like it.

Je Banach

Dear Brett:

I appreciate your taking the time to consider and discuss my work. It is important to me to allow writing to go through its natural process of being subjected to its varied interpretation. In fact, this exchange (which I refer to above) is one of the most important aspects of writing. However, it would be irresponsible of me to fail to respond to a dialogue that somehow perpetuates the idea that mental illness should be dismissed or ignored. Please note that the piece makes reference and draws its parallels to another writer who suffered from mental illness- Hemingway. For most that is general knowledge. The piece, therefore, does not ignore this facet, it hinges on it. Nor does it suggest that the fate of Hemingway or Wallace can be reduced to one cause or that it is somehow divorced from the mental illness they suffered from. The message is simple and is contained in the last few lines. Anything beyond this may, in fact, be projection which the work will of course be subject to. But it is my hope that readers will draw their own conclusions from the actual conclusion of my letter, which is a hopeful and positive conclusion. Critical dialogue is very important and I hope you continue and others along with you.



GaCKkk. Manufacturing automobiles is grueling. Sitting in a room mulling - which I also do for a living - is recreation for the socioeconomically privileged. If some of them also have mental illness and die from it, how this supposedly elevates their mostly trivial work is hard to fathom.

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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."