You Got Style
· Pointed Takes on Style Delineated ·
October 30, 2003
· Around the Academic Bell Curve in Artful-Scholar Style ·
Typically, I hold to the latter view — "grammatical," as you may call it — aware that Romano's theme, like that of E. M. Forster in Howard's End ("Only Connect"), partially bridges (or "pontificates") such a gap nicely. Such is my hope too, but it is hard work — especially in view of the examples. Here, for instance, is Judith Butler's winning quote in Philosophy and Literature's Bad Writing Contest (1998):
As I have sometimes abused such prose — recall High Style and Compromising Style — you may find it strange that I sympathize with Butler's point, not to say with Butler's writing. It is simply because Butler delineates here, with a line that may drift and circle around too much, the analogous concerns of Robin Lakoff's excellent discussion of "How to Write Like a Professor." To Lakoff's credit in Talking Power: The Politics of Language, Butler's "question of temporality" — considered vis-à-vis "structure," "power," and "style" — is even graphically well-illustrated.
The curve of the line suggests that academic style, as Lakoff claims, "is connected to notions of privilege and power."
So where, pray tell, does that leave Styles, as a life-long academic bottom-dweller — a wily old fish, full of Ancient Academic Graces and all the Modern Gumptions? Just stuck in the reedy backwaters of learning, warily observing clumsy bait-hurlers like Butler (her aim is good, by the way) and stylish fly-tossers like Robin Lakoff (she must shop at R.E.I.) almost communicating effectively. But so much Butlerian telling and Lakoffian showing leave this fish reflecting, if truth be told, on Norman Maclean's sage advice in A River Runs Through It: "Grace comes by art, and art does not come easy."Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
October 22, 2003
· The Sweet Sound of Silence ·
But last week back East they were. On the stage of Avery Fisher Hall in New York two Saturdays ago, I heard Zoltán Kocsis play Béla Bartók's Piano Concerto No. 3 (1945), and, again, last Tuesday there, I heard Murray Perahia play Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 1 in C major, Op. 15 (1795). Last Thursday at the 92nd Street Y, I again heard Kocsis play two Schubert sonatas [E minor (1817) and B-flat Major (1828)], these anchoring, brilliantly, a varied set of Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsodies.
What prompts my recollections, however, is my understanding that words are simply inadequate to my musical experiences. Happily, I was put onto this theme by the fitness of David Wright's program notes for Thursday's Kocsis recital. Here is Wright's trying — and admittedly failing — to catch the very essence of the middle movements of the Schubert B-Flat Sonata:
But of course it doesn't stymie the creature. The sweetest sound I heard last Saturday, for instance — in Palmer Square in Princeton — was from a waitress (a lovely soprano at Westminster College Choir of Ryder University) who, in serving me a rich chocolate fondue dessert, happily heard me and a friend say, "Yes, chocolate."
Although she only nodded, if you ever chance to hear Sarah Sweet, do. I think I've caught the essence of her style.Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
October 10, 2003
· New York Bound ·
So now I thought to fess up to the real truth: I meant a T(h)ree! A hard word for me to say then or now, here or there. It has to do with what Dave Blum down on Wall Street calls "a group of folks, some here and some there, who like to talk in one-pulse words." Here is what he says of us (more than just a few, too) in a short piece called "In Praise of Small Words."
Of course, Blum is a Wall-Street news type — a guy who has no clue that just one word we may all say is "seven" (as we may all say [when in real need of a buck or two or three], one small last word, too: you guessed it, New Jersey).
Well, I'm off on a big jet soon. Your guess is as good as mine where I'll be.Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
October 6, 2003
· Blue End Note: Louis Menand Sings "Chicago Blues" ·
But my take is not on Charles but on Louis Menand, who last week — in The End Note, The Nightmare of Citation — reviewed The Chicago Manual of Style (15th Edition) in The New Yorker. He did it with real feeling, striking a blue note. Here is Menand's lead:
Foreshortened, you can almost hear old Muddy Waters wailing, strumming, and beating out the 12-bar blues:
You are in "Muddy Waters" indeed. As Menand has it you're in fact sailing into trouble. Included are such odd arcana as whose citation form is it? (MLA, APA, or Chicago's?); what do you do with those punctuations and abbreviations? (,:;.* loc cit, ibid, et al.?); where do publishers today really do their thing? (New York, Chicago, London, Cambridge, Toronto, Sydney, Delhi, or Cambridge, MA?), and why can evil Redmond (I know it well) make your life so miserable today? ("First of all, it is time to speak some truth to power in this country: Microsoft Word is a terrible program.").
Though I can't begin to carry Louis ("The Delta Dart") Menand's bluesy tune, I can at least essentialize its point. It smiles in his last paragraph:
*What Robert Nozick once said of philosophy could now be said of all academic subjects: They're
And what J. David Bolter noted of their latest media equally applies:
Between the temptation and the reality we have, of course, "Chicago Blues."*Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
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Around the Academic Bell Curve in Artful-Scholar Style
The Sweet Sound of Silence
New York Bound
Blue End Note: Louis Menand Sings "Chicago Blues"
Figures & Tropes
Grammar & Syntax