The “Formatting the Partition” Roundup

  • The first of three podcasts pertaining to this summer’s LBC picks has been released by the stellar Pinky. The podcast features Nicola Griffith and Gwenda Bond.
  • Mark Sarvas, Ron Hogan, and some guy who makes phone calls are interviewed in the latest article describing how litblogs might make a difference.
  • Laura Bush and Jenna Bush are now planning to write a children’s book. One suspects that the results will be worth of the same misdemeanors that come to Jenna quite naturally.
  • How dare an interviewer not know about the esteemed Callaloo faculty!
  • Stephen King claims that critics didn’t do the Harry Potter series justice. His main beef: “When you have only four days to read a 750-page book, then write an 1,100-word review on it, how much time do you have to really enjoy the book? To think about the book?” (His italics.) Well, name one hard-core Harry Potter fan who didn’t wolf down the final book in quite the same way, The problem with King’s assessment is that he doesn’t exactly come across as the populist Lionel Trilling ready to atone for these apparent critical inadequacies — which, in indolent fashion, he does not cite. With King, we get such critical insights as “the Potter books grew as they went along,” “the hypnotism of those calm and sensitive voices, especially when they turn to make-believe,” and “[h]er characters are lively and well-drawn, her pace is impeccable.” I have long defended Danse Macabre as a thoughtful populist meditation on horror films and literature. But if King cannot offer examples from the text as to why Rowling’s voices work and if he must stick to Bart Simpson-style observations (to claim that the books “grew as they went along” is to simply observe the rising page count across the volumes) when he has about 1,800 words to rant, then he is clearly not the guy to fulminate on the subject. King made this exact speech before, actually suggesting that the works of John Grisham should be treated with some reverence. Such ridiculous posturing — particularly when it includes a repeat offender like Grisham (and I have read two of his books) — does all books a disservice. Is there not some middle ground whereby the critic can recognize the literary merits of a popular book while also recognizing egregious assaults upon the English language? (via Smart Books)
  • Speaking of disgraces along these lines, I have learned that Marilyn Stasio will be reviewing Rupert Thomson’s Death of a Murderer in this week’s NYTBR. My own considerable thoughts on this volume will hopefully be revealed later, but I’ll simply say that a book as complicated as this one really can’t be summed up in a capsule. Don’t tell this to the Tanenhaus crew, who regularly espies phrases like “mystery” and “science fiction” and immediately throws the tomes into the newspaper equivalent of Section 8 housing.
  • Well, if Stu Bykofsky is going to adopt such a hysterical polemic (he can’t be serious, can he?), I’d say that the best thing for America is to have a group of people beat the shit out of Bykofsky. And then once Bykofsky has recovered, another group can do this three thousand more times: one beating for every life lost during September 11th. The unity brought by all of these attacks, alas, won’t last forever. (What kind of sick bastard would write such a thing? I can’t be serious, can I?)
  • Call it a personal preference, particularly when it comes to fiction writing, but is it really such a bad that the adverb is endangered? (via Kenyon Review)
  • I can assure Bob Hoover that I’m not “safe and warm in the Carpathia.” But if bloggers are rescuing print journalists to some degree, I should remind Mr. Hoover that the Carpathia was sunk by a U-boat. That’s the thing about sailing out here on the waters and making waves. Nothing is impermeable, particularly when hubris and political diatribes replace reason while maintaining the ship.
  • Elton John wants to shut down the Net. Personally, I think it would be more beneficial if the Net found a way to shut down Elton John. His extraneous position has been tolerated by music listeners now for far too long. The time has come to deactivate him. (via Books Inq.)
  • Rejected Novelist (via Bookninja)
  • And RIP John Gardner. Gardner single-handedly revived the Bond novels in the 1980s and kept this young reader excited (after all, there were no more Ian Fleming books left to read). (via Bill Peschel)
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4 Comments

  1. name one hard-core Harry Potter fan who didn’t wolf down the final book in quite the same way

    Hello.

    To be honest, I don’t understand the attraction. When I went back, after finishing the book on July 27th, to read online discussions by people who read it in six hours, half of them seemed to have missed most of the crucial plot points in their haste, and were busy explaining the story to one another.

  2. I think you’re being way too harsh on King there,Ed-it is possible to review a book and make credible commentary about the style and strengths/weakness of the text without using direct qoutes from the source material. And yes,King may use plain and simple language but he’s talking about Harry Potter not James Joyce! He’s right about R.L.Stine(I used to work in a bookstore with a good sized children’s section and Stine’s GB series dominated the YA fantasy section for quite a while) and about the current state of reading for young people. The early print/online reviews for HP7 were merely a media race to see who could grab the headlines first(btw,Christopher Hitchens is reviewing Deathly Hallows this Sunday in the NYTBR and I wish they had called King instead).

    I do agree with you about Grisham;I gave up on him after The Street Lawyer. I kept reading the book ,waiting for some interesting mystery/thriller action but all that was there was a boring yuppie-seeks-redemption-by-taking-a-humble-job piece. I was already getting sick of him getting up on his soapbox with The Runaway Jury(smoking is bad,mmmkay?) and The Chamber was so dull,I couldn’t even finish it because I’m just not that big of a glutton for punishment(the film version is so tedious that it could be considered a violation of the Geneva Convention to show it on international flights).

  3. Obviously you haven’t delved into Grisham’s “Skipping Christmas”, which I see as a redemption story that praises Ayn Rand.

  4. This man Bykofsky isn’t the first person to express such sentiments lately. See the recent coverage of the New Republic cruise for examples. Yes, he’s a lunatic; yes, he’s serious; no, he’s not alone. Let’s not be paraniod, but let’s do take necessary account of the fact that this bizzare sort of crypto-fascism (such talk of the clarifying and benefical effects of violence is usually about using violence against your supposed enemies, not a third party using violence against your supposed friends in order to silence your supposed enemies) is for real.

    Can anyone imagine such a thing being published in any semi-respectable venue ten years ago, or even five?

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