Links: Penelope Fitzgerald, How Fiction Works, and blogger ethics

* The L.A. Times is cutting its stand-alone book review. Mark Sarvas covers the protest of its former editors. I wonder if there will be any newspaper book coverage worth reading outside of the New York Times.

* I’ve never wanted to read Penelope Fitzgerald, but after reading A.S. Byatt discussing her former colleague, I feel compelled to.

* Slate discusses James Wood’s How Fiction Works, and in doing so, succumbs to the problem of writing a summary that makes the book seem pale and flat when it is anything but. I wrote about such problems here (see more links in that post).

* The good news is that Salon has a much better review, which observes:

And as delightful as that sounds, I can’t help noticing what’s missing — namely, anything to do with story. This is no accident. Wood has always been impatient with what he calls “the essential juvenility of plot,” an attitude that comes through most clearly when he deigns to review genre writers. In “How Fiction Works,” he uses a not very representative sample from le Carré’s “Smiley’s People” to damn the whole school of “commercial realism,” its bloodless efficiency, its famished grammar of “intelligent, stable, transparent storytelling.” Even when he finds a genre writer he likes, he acts a bit like Gladstone among the whores. In a recent New Yorker review, for instance, he writes admiringly of Richard Price’s “Lush Life” but wonders why the author doesn’t “free himself from the tram track of the police procedural.”

I like the criticism but think it uses a bad example: the problem with Lush Life is that for all its artfulness, it makes the same point most modern thrillers do—the cops and crooks aren’t so different and the ways of the world don’t change much regardless of the side you’re on. That’s nice, but it’s been made about a thousand times before and is the central weakness of modern thrillers and one refreshing thing about Elmore Leonard, who doesn’t generally fall into this trap. I wrote these problems with Lush Life in my review of it.

* A question of blogger ethics: should one post e-mails without permission? In general I’d say no, unless one uses a short excerpt as an example of a general trend and it’s done anonymously. For example, in Science Fiction, literature, and the haters, I quoted two literary agents but didn’t put their names or identifying information about them in the post. In a follow-up post, I paraphrased what some e-mailers said. But I would never post an e-mail with someone’s name without permission because I think it violates their expectation for reasonable privacy. If they wanted to write in a public place, comments are open, and to dash that expectation isn’t fair.

The only exception to this is egregious behavior—for example, threats to sue, gross cruelty or crudity, and the like might merit an exception to this general policy. With luck I’ll never have to do so, but reserving the possibility seems prudent.

(Hat tip Books Inq.)

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