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brockmeier continued

“In the days that followed, Melissa guided him into greater and more pleasurable forms of injury, assisting him through each procedure step-by-step. She plucked the hairs from his stomach with a pair of tweezers, patiently and deliberately, so that each one generated a ring-shaped lambent spot that spread open and disappeared like a raindrop striking a puddle.”

Arguably one of the few permissible uses of the word ‘lambent,’ in an image that’s both lucid and a little gross.



February 18, 2011, 1:50pm   Comments

abbott continued

"He wasn’t worried about Peggy Spangler. She was a detour. Another girl with something hard and metal knocking around in her chest, a can of thumbtacks, a rusty alarm clock. Another blank face with dollar signs for eyes.

“Fuck, Hop, can the purple prose.”

And as things move along, so does Abbott’s diction, keeping time with the downward spiral her characters get trapped in.



January 02, 2011, 6:30pm   Comments

paolo bacigalupi, the windup girl

"When the door opens, they kneel in a wave, all of them performing khrabs of abasement, triple bows to the patron who keeps them housed, the one man in Krung Thep who willingly shoulders the burden of them, who provides a measure of safety from the red machetes of the Malays and the black batons of the white shirts.”

In contrast to Kraken, this is full-on speculative fiction, an extrapolation of environmental and large-scale social collapse, and there are a lot of moving parts to the background. It’s actually very elegant that Bacigalupi orders them by color: the Green Headbands of Malay Islamists, the white shirts of the Thai government officials, the yellow-card ethnic Chinese refugees. He shifts the colors here — the black batons of the white shirts — fittingly for the impurity of each group’s moral status; in much the same way, he weaves through a small allegory of environmental niche and habitat in the way he frames each main characters’ insecurities.

Night Shade Books 04.20.10



December 28, 2010, 6:57pm   Comments

china mieville, kraken

"The police arrived at last, coming in a stampy gang."

"Stampy" is followed in the next sentence by "benthic." A few lines later, Billy the hero finds himself "standing by the lack," that is, the space where a stolen object used to be. By the end of the chapter, "a twirl of rubbishy wind was gusting around some klaggy-looking squirrel on a rooftop." I don’t mean to imply that Mieville isn’t assisted by working more or less in sci-fi, the deeper end of genre fiction where an invented language or at least lexicon is encouraged (see A Clockwork Orange, or more recently Adam Langer). But even in the face of genre’s tolerance for overwriting (or experimentation!) the effects — in tone and mood, in economy of expression — that Mieville gets are impressive. And he’s (mostly) using standard English; and I’m just talking about diction, here. 

Del Rey 06.29.10



December 19, 2010, 11:01pm   Comments

rick bass, nashville chrome

"The little sawmill was perched at the edge of the dark woods, resting atop the rich soil, with the workers gnawing their way slowly into the old forest. Some years the workers would bring the logs in to the mill, and other years — depending on transportation logistics and contracts — the mill would pack up and move a little farther into the woods. There were still panthers in the swamps and bears in the mountains, or what passed for mountains in those old worn-down hills."

Nashville Chrome's based in fact, but is still fiction; it's about country music, and about a time that has very clearly passed (and the difficulty of acknowledging that time has passed). And it's worth paying attention to what Bass does here, giving the setting for his main characters' childhood, the place that calls back to them as imperfect eden: that first sentence, with the simple clauses and the simple adjectives repeating, little, dark, rich, old; the intrusion of nonfairytale adult reality bracketed within a set of n-dashes, quarantined as an aside; the final note of slight deflation, shadowing an acknowledgement that this eden, where men and nature and machine coexist, might only be a minor paradise.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 09.14.10



October 04, 2010, 10:59am   Comments

seth greenland, shining city

“‘I gotta get going,’ the pierced girl said. Then: ‘Do you have any more blow?’ Julian liked how she spoke, do you have, not got any or you got. He enjoyed it when someone made an attempt to sound civilized, life being so debased these days.”

It’s not so much that Julian likes the “do you have” in a question about coke; it’s the fact that the “do you have” follows an “I gotta” that knocks the ball that extra couple of yards.

Bloomsbury USA 07.08.08



March 05, 2010, 4:50pm   Comments