October 12, 2009



Just be careful with those italics if you do.

Dan Wickett

Have to say, it's amazing to me how many submissions Dzanc gets that are described in the cover letter as "fiction novels".


Perhaps we need to start classifying submissions by their word processing format instead of their genre. It would make standardized classification easier. "I'm looking for reviewers for an exciting, ground-breaking Word 2003 file..." This would at least have the virtue of being comprehensible.


At least it wasn't described as a "futuristic nonfiction historical novel."

Paul Samuelson

Sad to say that when I started off as an intern at a literary agency, my first reader report was all about this great "nonfiction novel." I sent it to 3 different people because i was so excited about it. Don't think I ever lived that down... Lesson learned.


If the nonfiction historical novel isn't your cup of tea, would you be interested in reading my autobiographical sci-fi novel of Thomas Edison?


I agree with you. I feel sorry by the person who is paying this publicist.

Paul Lamb

You know, Arthur & George by Julian Barnes could quite accurately be described as a "nonfiction historical novel." So could In Cold Blood in a stretch. I suppose the rest of the solicitation letter made matters more clear though.

The comments to this entry are closed.


  • 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."