You Got Style
· Pointed Takes on Style Delineated ·
October 31, 2002
· I \ Eye \ Aye ·
Alas, a resulting sugar high prompts today's announcements:
Now I can happily await All Saints' Day.
Cheers (and Boo) from your Nordic Logger.Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
October 28, 2002
· Metaphors \ Methods \ Models — Dirty-Hand Style ·
You may recall in Wetting a Line \ Whetting the Points that I first approved of Thoreau's view that getting one's "hands" dirty knocks the "palaver" out of one's writing. I still believe that, yet in Jacques Barzun "Takes On" Wayward Educationists, I confessed, I'm afraid — somewhat contradictorily — my regret in not literally "washing my hands" of educationists' styles. Now if you're like my philosophy students, you're likely asking with Martin Heidegger some question like this: "Hey, what gives?" since I ignored in Gardening and Writing the Point-Defiance Way how Marianne Binetti's style is, necessarily, if also insufficiently so, dirty-handed too. I mean: "How are you ever going to garden otherwise?"
So as not to be evasive, I'm going to go straight to right stuff on this question and cite Thomas DeQuincy, the great English writer and — in his treatise Style, published in Blackwood's Magazine in 1840-41 — a thoughtful student of style. DeQuincy focused on "pursuits" he thought "favorable to a culture of style" — that indeed "force[d]," he believed, "that culture . . . drawing much from our own proper selves, [but] little (if anything) from extraneous objects."
DeQuincy marks for us, it should be noted, an important philosophical difference, one drawing on a Kantian vocabulary implicitly tuned to such concepts as subjectively- and objectively-defined pursuits — that is, those drawn between ordinary common sense on the one hand, and modern science on the other: wherein a topic like "dirty hands" is considered metaphorically stylish in literature, but methodologically not in science. Although I admit it is a helpful distinction, I would add, too, it is indifferently spelled, in either case, "dirty hands" — and so may model, explicitly, like my italicized words, a slipperier, still more important truth.
My point turns on DeQuincy's common, but I think too-simplistic assumption that
Although initially tempting, DeQuincy's main assumption fails here since, though a scientist may of course find his point in matter, he must nonetheless communicate it still in words. Indeed, one of the most celebrated dirty-hand stories in history illustrates my point. Dr. Ignaz Phillip Semmelweis, the Hungarian discoverer of microbial pathogens, failed at first to report his discovery and so, for a time at least, lost public credit for it (although his discovery did happily save many lives, as anyone familiar with the story knows). But my real point lies deeper, for it can be argued that Dr. Semmelweis's reticence came not so much from his literary shyness as from a deep, subtle, stylishly philosophical understanding of the point of scientific discovery: namely, that it is less a matter of finding any "matter" as such than a "method" by which that matter's existence can be suggested but never proved per se (or an sich, as Kant would say).
What's called the Hempelian model of the scientific method explains as much. Attributed to philosopher Carl Hempel, it turns, simply, on the analysis of logical inference in scientific inquiry, wherein the results grasped by its research must rely on invalid formal arguments (on affirming the consequent, to be precise), yielding practical benefits but revealing theoretical traps, too. So whenever good scientists report results, they usually say: "The data suggest [but don't 'prove'] the matter in hand." So in a manner of speaking, we have, in such phrasing, scientific style modeled — though Semmelweis had it, of course, in the extreme.
In extremis, indeed, if you followed my link above, for you know he finally died of the "matter in hand." So in a manner of speaking, not only did he show that getting one's "hands" dirty knocks the "palaver" out of one's writing, but suggested, too, that not till we discover "'imaginary gardens with real toads in them'" — to borrow a different Marianne's words (Marianne Moore's in "Poetry") — can we ever hope to learn how to knock the "palaver" out of our lives. Perhaps that's the matter Thoreau also had in mind.Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
October 26, 2002
· Dialectizer ·
Requires No Work
It so happens I've just learned how to mess with words wonderfully, and as I've been harping on that theme a while (as the artfully difficult grace of style) I thought to share — though I must confess it requires no work and may thus be doubly suspect. In any event, here's the impressively clever "Dialectizer."
Just Click-'n-Clack your way through my site as you will — but please, will someone tell Tom and Ray Magliozzi I'm sorry they're not listed yet.
Here's · You Got Style · in
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October 23, 2002
· Doonesbury Does the Blog ·
Gary Trudeau has given me an excuse, anyway, to leave a particularly tough tree I've been sawing on and thank him personally. Should he ever cruise the timber out this way, I'd throw a (b)log on the fire and pass around the b(l)ottle. (I think of myself as a Logger, of course.) In any case, it feels good — therapeutic even — to see him name my work so. It's so much like his — save, of course, for slight differences in our pay, notoriety, and longevity (but I'm not complaining: I'm in a [b]logger sort of mood today, in word and deed).
If you haven't yet seen Trudeau's new work, check it out, or at least the trace of his now-vanished (b)log-set.
Naturally, G.B.T. has style.Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
October 22, 2002
· Wrote.org ·
Here's a recent entry, from March 11, 1910:
Who is this "Judge" I want to know, so crisp of judgment and witty, too? What exactly is he saying? Should I or maybe some grim PC cop detect double-entendre here: a sexy "member of the bar" held up in the morning, or just some Judge? Frankly, I don't know, and don't care — 'cause this guy's got style.
So does Minnetonka's Record. Judge your own local rag by the standard, and weep.Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
October 18, 2002
· T. G. I. Friday's Mourning ·
Today's title marks it as Friday's work, the work of mourning, I like to think, not of morning, of darkness, not sunshine, trouble, not peace. Thank God I have time today to consider it here.
I have in mind a particular poem written to acknowledge the loss by miscarriage last winter of a relative's child — Wren Marie — a girl who will never spread wings westward from Minnesota to see the rugged Washington Coast nor eastward ever to visit her grandparents in Rockville, Maryland, where, recently in the news, we have all mourned deaths even more terrible still.
"Flight Song for Wren Marie" is my daughter-in-law's poem, and when I wrote her last winter to mark its pointed achievement, I knew — as you should now — that it came from a woman whose own father took flight when she was just thirteen. As Yeats knew ("a terrible beauty is born"), poetry lives at the hard edges of experience, and people do too:
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October 16, 2002
· Midweek Sunday Morning ·
So here's my "Midweek Sunday Morning."
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October 13, 2002
· Gardening and Writing the Point-Defiance Way ·
I needed some instruction, of course, and, as fortune would have it, my wife wisely suggested as a witty and, I might add, beautiful model — both literary and natural — the Northwest gardening author Marianne Binetti. Now Marianne Binetti is Northwest all the way, living in Enumclaw just a bit east of Tacoma, Washington, not too far geographically from the real Point Defiance — the peninsula jutting northward into Puget Sound there. Last spring, she happened to visit our own more westerly Olympic Peninsula, leaving an autographed copy of her third book, Easy Answers for Great Gardens: 500 Tips, Techniques, & Outlandish Ideas, with my wife. "Go Easy," she wrote. (She has, I might add, very nice handwriting.)
I was charmed by her style. Here's good Northwest gardening advice, Binetti-style:
You get the picture. No-nonsense Marianne — smack, in-your-face, charming, and beautiful. I wish we writing teachers would get the hang of her particular genius. Perhaps then we'd have Tips-'N-Tricks texts better suited to postmodern student needs:
My literary fantasy does, I admit, have its own obvious limitations, since gardening and writing aren't exact analogues. They're not really quite fit. Whereas we might Go Easy with rhodys, we'd Go Wrong, alas, with "Composing Too Easily" — though I wish my students could today hear the straight, point-defiant, correct answer to:
In any event, thanks Marianne. And by the way, is it true that Point Defiance is a clone of Lem's Walloper? I'd really like to know.Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
October 11, 2002
· Jacques Barzun "Takes On" Wayward Educationists ·
But to Newsweek first. Author Evan Keliher, author of Guerrilla Warfare for Teachers: (A Survival Guide), takes on the likes of Walter H. Annenberg and others in it, who, with private, sometimes public funds, have endowed Projects, Programs, and Policies aplenty while forgetting, of course, the fourth, most important "P": People (classroom teachers especially).
What's the result of their work? Mostly meetings. In fact, while making my slow way to Barzun overnight, I think I was put on track by chancing to read one such teacher, Naomi Chana, in her fine weblog Baraita.
Do you sense the relief here? Bored? Call a meeting, all educationists say, their answer to every curricular ill. And their question? Why, as Keliher explains, it's ever the same, a variation on the one Pharoah put to his geometry teacher Euclid — "Isn't there a short-cut hereabouts?" "No," Euclid rightly replied, "there is no royal road to geometry."
Obviously I'm not on it. So on to Barzun. In one essay, "The Art of Making Teachers" prefacing "Occupational Disease: Verbal Inflation," Barzun defines the problem by taking a bee-line to the heart of Keliher's complaint and of Chana's relief: the style road. He simply fixes on the chronic disjunction between educationists' words and deeds, on all educationese — powered by big bucks and small ideas — that turns teachers like Keliher into Survivalists and those like Chana into Dutiful-but-Duly-Relieved Skippers.
That's enough to make one educationist like me ashamed, for here I am today (October 11th), dutifully heading off to a meeting to hear talk about "mission-y" things (love that word) — having not yet learned to "wash my hands" of the stuff (in deed at least). But Listenin' to the Talk ain't Talkin' It, is it?
Or is it?Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
October 8, 2002
· October 8th: Historic Birthday(s) ·
So why do I invoke it here? It's simply to fix another singularly important birthday in mind, that of my own "point of departure," Movable Type. It's a year old today. It was precisely a year ago today that Ben and Mena Trott released it to the public. Their modest announcement and thanks, to be found here, mark a pair possessed of and powered by Style. I bet old St. Augustine and E. B. White are nodding faithfully in agreement. And more sleepily, old Dave.
"here Here and EveryWhere," I can hear him snore, "October 8th. Yeah, that was when Galileo, or Gutenberg, or, Huh, Who'd you say? . . ."
You're my kind of guy, Dave!
Happy Birthday all.
And Ben and Mena, my donation's coming.Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
October 6, 2002
· St. Augustine Reading — Silently ·
Indeed, Bennozo Gozolli's St. Augustine Reading the Epistle of St. Paul — the tenth of seventeen famous frescoes in Sant' Agostino Church in San Gimignano, Italy, 1465 — is not here properly its apt expression or, better, visualization. Neither, for that matter, are Gozolli's depicted characters — St. Augustine and his intellectual friend Alypius — even the immediate subjects of my thought. Rather, they are Alberto Manguel and Stylish (my wife and intellectual friend), who, some years back in an extended review of Manguel's A History of Reading, wrote this intriguing paragraph:
My thought is simply this: just as we learned in the West gradually to mark words with visible writing spaces, so gradually we learned (as in the two scenes "depicted" and "described" above) to observe related reading silences. Both, of course, may just be twin aspects of a definition of style, appointed spaces and appointed times — marked, we might say, for reflection. I don't quite know what to make of them, save perhaps to recall E. B. White's famous dictum on writing: "Writing is an act of faith," he said, "not a trick of grammar." I think old St. Augustine would agree.Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
October 2, 2002
· (Un)pointed Takes on Style (Mis)delineated ·
The lesson was historical, beginning so:
It was like the Fall of Man when some "woman" naturally got the point about spacing, I said.
That's when we got flows like this:
You can image the bloody battle that followed — sharp swords of punctuation drawn — with half my class going at the other half's jugular, so to speak.
The noise was awful, and the blood worse (I hate to see young people sacrificing themselves so).
But judging from some Dear-John letters I then shared, you'd hardly know who won at last. You can see why for yourselves:
As you can see, punctuation is problematic.Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
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I \ Eye \ Aye
Metaphors \ Methods \ Models — Dirty-Hand Style
Doonesbury Does the Blog
T. G. I. Friday's Mourning
Midweek Sunday Morning
Gardening and Writing the Point-Defiance Way
Jacques Barzun "Takes On" Wayward Educationists
October 8th: Historic Birthday(s)
St. Augustine Reading — Silently
(Un)pointed Takes on Style (Mis)delineated
Figures & Tropes
Grammar & Syntax