Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Vine-Ripened Reviews

“Fresh-ground pepper on that, sir?” There was a time not too long ago when, as soon as the food landed in front of you, this question was mandatory (even if the food were ice cream, cheesecake, or a half grapefruit). I grant that fresh-ground pepper has a distinctive taste, but I’m not sure it’s superior to pepper ground a year ago.

Indeed, given the history of cheese and wine, why ought we to be so excited about fresh-ground pepper? When will they be asking instead if we’d like to sample the house’s 2001 ground pepper, aged in French oak, and stored until last week in limestone caverns under constant temperature and humidity?

All this is preamble to telling you I’m going to toss the occasional book review onto this blog. Now, there’s no shortage of reviews around. You can get the latest in crime and mystery served up over on David Thayer’s site or at Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind; you can read an eclectic mix from Mark Sarvas and the gang at The Elegant Variation or from the wide-ranging Bookslut; you can hear about whatever comes to mind for Michael Allen at Grumpy Old Bookman, or find various largely lit-fic reviews at Fiction Bitch, and even read reviews of the latest self-published novels at Girl on Demand (aka POD-dy Mouth)...and there's more worthy sites beyond those.

If you want to hear the latest, Tomorrowville is not the place to come. In terms of reviews, think of this site as Yesterdayville.

My little niche will be books for writers—either books on craft, books on the writing life, or novels I feel exemplify some unique approach to the page. But I don’t plan to post these in a timely manner. Instead, I will be talking about books that have been around; indeed, in some cases, I will be talking about books that have vanished from sight (and some that were never terribly visible to begin with).

No fresh-ground writing here. Only vine-ripened, sun-dried writing.

And what’s my goal? Establishing or reviewing a canon certainly isn’t in the cards. I’m not going to do the obvious, and refer you to Aristotle’s Poetics for advice on structure, to Gardner’s Art of Fiction for overall craft, or to Nabokov or Hemingway for close reads of sentence structure; if somehow you’ve missed those, there are already plenty of signposts pointing to those well-trod paths. Instead, I will be going for the treasures hidden in the weeds—lesser-known books on craft, or novels that show some special (if sometimes elusive) technique.

I warn you, I will be doggedly lowbrow (or perhaps non-brow) about this. TVille is a casual hang-out with friends, and on this cyberpage I’m more likely to wax surfboards or bikini lines than poetic. The sublime is, well, sublime, I suppose, and also often ineffable, and here I want to deal with practicalities, with things that are as effable as possible. Posturing will be important when Paris Review interviews you some day (the interviews are now online free, BTW), but for the here and now, let’s all agree to admit that effing is good, and if you can recommend any books that will help us eff, please toss them into the Comments trail. Don’t be shy, and if you feel the chill breath of your Lit Prof on the back of your neck, post anonymously or use a pseudonym.

Or, if you hate this sort of thing, skip any post that has “Vine-Ripened” in the title.


Anonymous said...

I am using IE7 and your blog is fine.

David Isaak said...

Thanks for dropping through and taking a look. Most IE7 users see the word "everything" in the ABOUT ME sidebar smashed down into the top edge of the profile picture, and see the title of the "I'm not THIS David Isaak..." touching and slightly overlapping with the first link.

Does the fact that it is different for different users imply that the IE7 settings vary to cause this?

In any case, thanks for looking!

cate sweeney said...

You seem a man for all-brows
partcularly in the latest photo
obviously pre-waxing days...
happy blogging.

David Isaak said...

Hi, Cate!

Acquiring facial hair young has great virtues in terms of being able to purchase beer. But it's a double edged sword: one's popularity falls rapidly as one's acquaintances reach the age of 21.

David Thayer said...

This is one of those test comments in which the tester ( me) is simply determined to overcome Blogger and having accomplished that can't remember what he had to say.

David Isaak said...

But you did it! You fought your way through the battle zone and emerged here on the page, bloody but unbowed.

Who cares if you can't remember which side you were fighting for? In the Darwinian struggle, survival = victory! (Well, actually survival + reproduction = victory. Better get laid while you're here.)