You Got Style
· Pointed Takes on Style Delineated ·
February 25, 2003
· A Well Thought-Out English Paper ·
It comes from Karl Smith — "The Yellow Dart" — a good guy with a great future — likely political. I mean Karl's got promise . . . style . . . even sound. Although his "Englilsh" may be off, you'll be moved, as I was, by his "Hustle and Bustle." In any event, here's Karl "The Yellow Dart" Smith's A Well Thought-Out Englilsh [sic] Paper.
P. S. Note the budding political power of Karl's $2.13 "cash advance."Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
February 22, 2003
· On Parsing English Justice ·
These few words appeared in the court I sat in Wednesday. They brought to mind an old writing maxim; you've heard it: "prefer active verbs." The injunction invites verbal action from stylish English writers. Indeed, the best handbooks repeat it, zealous E-primers fetishize it, and alert, really competent writers follow it — maybe more dutifully than religiously. I know I do.
But Wednesday, asked by a judge to be his appointed tool of local justice, I knew I was in trouble. For I'd hoped I couldn't be, and when I wasn't, I dreaded I'd in fact wronged someone. I felt an essential guilt weighing, metaphysically, on anyone standing before the old bar of English justice.
It wasn't a matter of identity politics. For I'd not been asked if I was rich or poor, liberal or conservative, gay or straight, or a host of other oppositions bedeviling thought today. All I'd been asked was one question: could I be just? The categories figuring in my oath — "facts," "truth," "evidence," "reason" — were all good metaphysical abstractions, but when taken from me by a "peremptory challenge," I felt myself then pleading at the bar. For I couldn't be a juror, since I'd been judged and, indeed, found wanting.
Although I've known that's crucial to our system, today I thought to pass the explanation on to a better writer, G. K. Chesterton. Since Chesterton became an English juror (and I just a reject), I thought you might like his Twelve Men. By the way, consider me Chesterton's "bicycle thief."Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
February 18, 2003
· Compromising Style: Malcolm Cowley on Socspeak ·
I got to thinking about all this Friday though prudence begs me skirt specific circumstances, but I thought to share the literary generics. And who should come to my aid but Malcolm Cowley, the literary chronicler of "The Lost Generation." From 1948 to 1985 Cowley regularly advised The Viking Press and, in 1956, wrote an impressively witty piece called "Sociological Habit Patterns in Linguistic Transmogrification." I thought to share it today. Although I can represent it only partially, it is an instructive tale of "compromising style."
Perhaps it's well to recall that — as Robert Frost once said "belletristically" — "I was educated by degrees." What Frost really meant, etymologically, was, of course, "by degradation." You can bet Cowley knew the derivation. But I'm happy to report that Cowley himself turned to the grammatical rather than rhetorical implications of Socspeak, summarizing in his final paragraph the sort of "degradation" (or "transmogrification") grammar undergoes in Socspeak. It's a matter, you might note, of "conquered" parts of speech.
Today, alas, I feel "robust" enough — but a little "yoked and harnessed." I feel like a "February adjective" to an October post.
And tomorrow, I have jury duty.Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
February 14, 2003
· Valentine's Day Music ·
I got thinking about all this at my son's piano concert tonight. I'd earlier been following the news. Between Blix and Bush, of course, I'm glad my escape mechanism was just musical. I couldn't help thinking, though, that the distance between love and war — between Debussy's "L'Isle Joyeuse" and Liapunov's "Lezginka," say — isn't really that far. In my generation making love not war seemed the thing, but today "studying war no more" isn't quite our forte.
Still, I'm hopeful that like Suave's encore, we might in fact rest in the piano peace of Grieg's "Arietta."
It really is heartening Valentine's Day Music.Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
February 9, 2003
· Space and Transcendence in Bach's Fantasia in G ·
Actually, since I can only represent the "sounds" indirectly, I'm forced here to be metaphorical, especially so since the musial thought I've in mind is actually my son's, and the "note" he would mark is a profounder one of J.S. Bach's. What I particularly have in mind is a brief essay written in appreciation of Bach's Fantasia in G (perhaps Bach's greatest organ work). What captured Suave's imagination, however, is only found in the score, not in the sound of Bach's work, and so I'm permitted a wider meditation on themes and variations fit to the still larger space of Bach's own musical imagination. For the theme is space itself — and how music marks its very transcendence. You'll see that very idea expressed in Bach's music.
Although I cannot fully represent the scope of Suave's essay — which turns successively from music to photography to literature to life and to music again — its concluding paragraph catches perfectly the essence of the point (the stylistic "note") both he — and I think Bach and Baker, too — would suggestively sound. Indeed, you might even hear it in Bach's music.
You should know that as I've been writing this, I've been listening to my son's own fine music. He's practicing for a Valentine Day's piano concert. One work, triply distant from the Fantasia in G, is Bach's great Partita No. 2 for violin, BWV 1004 — called "Chaconne" — arranged for left hand by Johannes Brahams. But on whatever instrument — and by whatever hand — it goes ("Andante," say), marked also in Suave's essay, "only by the grace of God."Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
February 4, 2003
· Here, Here: Where Have You Been There? ·
The group I was with — numbering around seventy — has even developed a happily elaborate and often insightful code enumerating their concerns. They've figured out how to figurate style — just a couple of points shy of a "proper" ideal maybe — so as to make time for still more substantive matters like eating and drinking. Indeed, the group last week styled things so well as to make time for a night on the town Thursday (we were near New York) and at a local mall Saturday (I fancied even Stanley Fish would have been lured by the $359,000 Bentley convertible I saw).
Anyway, all of this falls quite naturally under the rubric of "The Leisure of the Theory Class" — though I suspect Thorstein Veblen would say (observing me returned from "Back East"): "Vatch out! Dat's a T'ree, Styles."Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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A Well Thought-Out English Paper
On Parsing English Justice
Compromising Style: Malcolm Cowley on Socspeak
Valentine's Day Music
Space and Transcendence in Bach's Fantasia in G
Here, Here: Where Have You Been There?
Figures & Tropes
Grammar & Syntax