August 22, 2009



"The first third of “Glover’s Mistake” is occasionally marred by a bit too much telling and not quite enough showing."

Can't comment on how apt this is in re Laird's novel, but, as a standard for novel writing, it seems misplaced to me. "Show, don't tell" is of course the axiom for screenwriting. But does it really apply to the novel? I don't think so. To me the novel is all about telling. It's what differentiates it from everything else. Part of the pleasure of reading a novel is becoming lost in the consciousness of its author. In some cases, as in Pynchon's novel, that's the only pleasure left.

I've been having this argument with a screenwriter friend of mine who is writing his first novel (something you can relate to, I'm sure). I keep telling him to tell more and show less, and at first he thought this was heresy. Now he's getting the hang of it.


Bob Anderton

I thoroughly enjoyed your review, which is sending me to the bookstore. But it also sent me to the Internet for more biographical information about Laird.

And, wouldn't you know it, Laird is ... the husband (or ex-husband, depending on the source) of Zadie Smith.

Once again, a lit insider is chosen for the spotlight by the NYTimes. Of course, Laird has a right to do his thing, and I'm sure the novel is as good as you say, but my pleasure in finding a new writer now is diminished because I wonder, 'Why him?'

I guess there is nothing we can do about this ... it's a trap for Laird and a trap for readers. In any case, thanks for the review. I have no answers, only tears.


Bob -

Judging a writer by his/her biography is kind of beside the point (unless we're talking about Ezra Pound). But if you want to find "new" writers you've never heard of, whose discovery will have no possible connection to the celebrity industrial complex, go to a used bookstore. They are filled with old novels by wriers you've never heard of, some of whom you may quite like. That's my method in any event.


Bob, thanks for likimg my review. I would add that 600 words in page 18 doesn't really constitute a spotlight; and I'd also ask the inverse of your proposition - should Laird's work be ignored/not covered simply because of whom he is married to? That doesn't seem especially fair, either, does it? Laird is a prize winning writer in his own right, after all.

Anyway, whether or not he is a "lit insider" - whatever that mythical creature is - he was unknown to you at the time of discovery, and so I think your pleasure should remain undimmed. But I've been accused of being Polyanna ...

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