You Got Style
· Pointed Takes on Style Delineated ·
November 23, 2002
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· Style as a Test of Truth ·
Although I don't want to repeat Ash's essay (you can read it here), his concern for what he calls "veritas" seems today an apt subject, since that term I've adduced already. What I have in mind is Ash's particular use of literary style as a test of truth, as this passage makes clear:
You can of course supply your own examples, maybe recognizing that curious form of judgment epitomized best in Cardinal Newman's apt phrase, "A Grammar of Assent." If it's unfamiliar to you, its logic is simple: in an insufficiency of data there emerges a developing sufficiency of informal detail marking (but not verifying, strictly) the discernable shape of the verifiable still: what Ash calls the "line" to be defended. And of course his conclusion follows: we may reasonably find — and assent to — in literary style, at least an emerging local equivalent (grammatically) of a less strict but partially verifiable insight into substantial truth.
But as that's poorly styled, E. B. White may say it better (though I'm afraid, like Orwell, I've lost my references — and you may thus rightly question my veracity): "Facts have an eloquence all their own."
But of course, as Ash claims, "so too does style."
*Ash is here questioning a previously-cited passage from Paul Theroux:
I just stopped in for a look and don't have time to linger just now, but this article put a grin on my face. What a delightful thought: when short on facts, try examining style. It is perhaps a bit like the judging at ice dancing competitions, with points awarded for artistic merit as well as technical difficulty. I *will* come back and read this more thoroughly later...
Though I like your happy analogy, I suspect Ash had more in mind than such amusements. You might compare his "Truth is Another Country" with this. Ash is perhaps one of those pen-wielding, Oxford-educated, Hitchins-like PPE majors on the loose today. There's one, so to speak, behind every Bush.
Speaking of which, last Saturday I saw George Bush, Senior, at the Bush Library (C-SPAN, 10/24/03), moderate remarks by Gen. Tommy Franks and New York Times reporter John Burns. Burns suavely altered Ash's earlier remarks, implicitly adding his British style to the general's more aw'-shucks, shock-and-awe American military manner. Whenever he ascends to power, maybe George III will simply try to combine such two-step style maneuvers.
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