August 20, 2010



I am sad about this, too.

But mostly I am happy to find in you another kindred interest in obituaries and in marking the passing of smart ones.

My mom's letters to me are nothing but obits from the Economist. My husband finds this creepy but I find it soothing and moving and fine.

I love that the occasional, irregular heartbeat here at TEV is a death knell.


No need for you to apologize. I like this blog, and if I have to hear sad news, I'd rather hear it here in a friendly place.

Thanks for letting us know.

Michael A. Rizzo

I love Kermode-but, even while I re-visit Pieces of My Mind and Shakespeare's Language (esp. the latter)-I would also love to read your response to Mason w/r/t DFW. Have at it, please! Enough with this whole doldrums business. (Or: take your time. I don't want to seem aggressive or anything.)

Indian Book Publishers

Frank Kermode is a respected critic in literary circles. As someone who understood modern thinkers and literarure, his contributions to Fontana Modern Masters will be remembered forever.

Bien and Robinson

Ultimately this is sad, because this is the genius that said, "“the conflict between the human need to make sense of the world through storytelling and our propensity to seek meaning in details (linguistic, symbolic, anecdotal) that are indifferent, even hostile, to story.”

Even if he was a literary critic, something I don't necessarily like, you can't deny the wisdom in that statement. It's absolutely poetic!

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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."