June 24, 2009



That's just a tremendous interview. Thanks for posting it.


Does anyone have a complete list of Galassi's fiction writers? From the article, I gathered:
Marilynne Robinson, C. E. Morgan, Jonathan Franzen, Jeffrey Eugenides, Alice McDermott... Anyone else?


"Writing is its own reward. It has to be. I really believe that. This is a part of publishing that's really hard to come to grips with. But publishers can't make culture happen the way they want it to happen. They can stand up for what they believe in, and they can work to have an impact, but in the end it's like the brilliant thing that Helen Vendler said about poets. She was asked, "What's the canon?" and she said something like, "The poets are going to decide what the canon is."

This is really interesting, because this POV completely leaves the literary critic out of the loop. I think this is because literary critics, and their power in shaping popular taste, have pretty much disappeared. Which is why James Wood is such a novelty in our literary landscape, and why he inspires so much hysteria from our writers.


Not to rekindle a fire, but I'd love to know how many of writers have MFA's (or not).


I meant Galassi's writers. Duh.

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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.
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    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."