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July 31, 2009


chris kubica

IS TEV on twitter? if so, where?


I do not tweet, alas. I have an account - MarkSarvas - but I do not use it.

susan messer

Thank you for that. Amazing and fresh. How did you come across Anastas? I'm almost speechless at how perfect this passage seems to me.


It actually came to me from his publishers (along with a zillion other books) but the title caught my eye, and I started reading and, like you, was taken right in.

susan messer

I kept thinking about this passage and had to come back to say that I finally found words to describe what's so wonderful about it. Anastas accomplished the thing that writing is "supposed to" accomplish: It showed me something I've always known but never saw before.

It's interesting that among the zillion books, your eye landed on this one. One might say that because you've just had a child, it would particularly speak to you. But (arguing against that), my daughter is 21, and it still resonated powerfully.

Anyway, this is a good example of why you get those zillion books, because just by posting that passage, Anastas had made a sale. I'm definitely going to buy that book. (But I hope that doesn't mean you'll now start getting TWO zillion books.)

sam adler

read the book! it's great.

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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."