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· Pointed Takes on Style Delineated ·
September 28, 2002
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Farmer-essayist Berry understands well Thoreau's dictum that getting one's "hands" dirty knocks the "palaver" out of one's writing, and he understands like Izaak Walton how to make points about style in some taut, intelligent lines about angling. Maybe that's why he focuses on Ernest Hemingway and Norman Maclean in his short essay, "Style and Grace."
The essay is about Hemingway's "Big Two-Hearted River" (1925) and Maclean's A River Runs through It (1976). Berry notes the clear strengths of these contrasting masterpieces of English style, praising Hemingway's craftsmanly fastidiousness — his "refusing clutter" in not fishing the narrative's famous swamp at last — and Maclean's "not so neat or self-contained, but just as fine," messiness — his choosing to fish in a story of loss, bewilderment, and misunderstanding for "the essential mysteriousness of our experience." I like his contrast, fastidiousness and messiness, and I recommend them both.
But I can't help noting Berry's ending:
What cannot be seen, of course, is the big fish — named Grace — which, as Maclean's story makes clear (and you might note here), "comes by art and art does not come easy."Permalink
Love it, Styles! Absolutely first class.
A Punny Thing Happened on the Way to . . . class, indeed. I'm arguably richer (and poorer) by two fine(d) turns of phrase at · You Got Style · At what rate? I particularly like Donald Knuth's — at the algorhithmic rate of $2.56 (though you appear to deserve the biblical [$3.16] rate, too).
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