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Saturday, December 20, 2003

Saturday morning snippets 

The New York Times has a reasonable amount of holiday goodies. Leading off is an interview with Irshad Manji, a thirtysomething Canadian whose plain-spoken book about the problems in Islam and how to fix them is a huge bestseller in Canada, and due out in the US next month.

Margo Jefferson tries to reclaim some glory for the essay, as she's tired of debates between fiction writers and those who partake in "Creative nonfiction."

In reviews, Daniel Mendelsohn finds Robert Harris' POMPEII to be "cunningly devised"; Lara Vapnyar's short story collection "There Are Jews in My House" is favorably assessed; Tracy Chevalier's THE LADY AND THE UNICORN goes far beyond any superficial resemblance to her previous work; and Conrad Black's biography of FDR is examined in a fair amount of detail.

At the Guardian, Kate Figes asks five publishers to name a book they feel didn't get the kind of sales and accolades it deserved in the UK. I'm not totally sure I agree with the list, especially since Matthew MacIntosh's WELL seemed to be reviewed all over the place, though I'm also thinking of US and Canadian reviews too.

Ralph Steadman got some advice about writing from Dr. Hunter Thompson about writing; luckily, he didn't follow it, as he wouldn't be writing at all now.

As well, Michel Faber finds the hype and expectations surrounding Jonathan Lethem's THE FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE don't come to fruition, leaving him rather disappointed. Other reviews include THE SILLY SEASON by Bernard Shrimsley, a fictional take on today's tabloid journalism; Leslie Forbes' WAKING RAPHAEL, which Helen Falconer feels is a "thriller-reader's thriller writer," whatever that means; and John Le Carre's ABSOLUTE FRIENDS is deemed a tad too strident and misplaced.

At the WaPo, A.B. Yehoshua's new novel is well-reviewed; Edmund White's FANNY is deemed to be a sparkling, well-written romp; and Doug Winter jumps on the bandwagon of good reviews for Peter Straub's LOST BOY LOST GIRL.

Looking at the Globe & Mail next, Robert Wiersma doesn't have much use for Christmas. Bah, humbug, so instead he picks some of the darker holiday entertainments available. Related, Martin Levin asks his readers to save up for the three Christmas (or Chanukah) presents he really wants.

And finally, how much do awards play a part in determining what we want to read? Rick Kleffel and Terry D'auray of Trashotron's Agony Column delve into what determines their reading whims.

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