January 13, 2010


Daniel Olivas

Welcome back, Mark. And many thanks for including my upcoming Vroman's reading in the "Worthy Readings" sidebar. It should be a fun event.


Welcome Back Mark! Can we take your class online??

Jack Pendarvis

I'm going to miss myself on the old sidebar. I was up there forever. It gave me a very satisfying false sense of accomplishment.

Jack Pendarvis

I just realized that my comment might be misinterpreted. I don't consider it a false accomplishment to be listed in your sidebar - quite the contrary. I meant to say that being there so long past my expiration date (for a reading I ended up having to cancel) was a pleasant unearned compensation. I didn't want you to think I was being rude or ungrateful.


Sadly no, Larry. This one is purely in-person. But come to LA, it's warmer than NY!

Jack, you earn every bit of my attentions!


Noticing "Aspects of the Novel" on your spring syllabus brings to mind the review by Edmund White of "Concerning E.M.Forster" by Frank Kermode in Sunday New York Times Book Review - 1/17/10 - http://tinyurl.com/yc283nd

Class looks wonderful - would love to be part of it. Best of luck this semester.

Wolfgang Kuhnle

It is about time to update the "Recommended" column as well.

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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."