You Got Style
· Pointed Takes on Style Delineated ·
May 23, 2004
· Wing to Wing and Oar to Oar ·
Frost's three lead sentences are rather the real reason, however, for my marking the lovely phrase:
I say this because we are "Oar to Oar and Wing to Wing" with wedding preparations here. Just in case you've missed a word or two recently, the true radiance of my week's work can now best be seen off-line.
If "proper words in proper places" defines style, some words are best left unsaid.Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
May 14, 2004
· Suspended Sentences ·
The news reminds me of a passage from Frank O'Connor's short story "Guests of the Nation." Set in Ireland during the First World War, the story deals with the fate of two British prisoners (Belcher and Hawkins) who are sacrificed to a sadly fateful political necessity. They are eliminated because, following word of the execution of Irish prisoners elsewhere, their captors can't excuse them from the terrible, bloody consequences of war. Despite their good efforts, they must go.
The particular passage that interests me is this:
Now I don't mean to trivialize his story, but O'Connor's stylistic finesse is breathtaking. His larger intent notwithstanding, he has shifted — or so it seems to me — from objects initially listed in his fine penultimate sentence ("a bucket, a basket, or a load of turf") to the objective, substantive weight of "hot water" marked in his last. Reread and you'll maybe see his move!
What I ask is this: does anyone know the correct stylistic name for it — or perhaps, too, the political?Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
May 9, 2004
· Our Real Mother's Day ·
Consider Julia Ward Howe's original "Mother's Day Proclamation" (1870):
Consider, too, the purpose of the first Mother's Day in 1908. Primarily organized to honor the extraordinary memory of Anna Reese Jarvis — an Appalachian mother who organized women to work for better sanitary conditions in the Civil War and to reconcile Union and Confederate neighbors — the day was meant to prompt women to call for peace in the world as well. Indeed, its aim was an echo of Howe's call: "Let them then solemnly take counsel with each other as the means whereby the great human family can live in peace, each bearing the sacred impress, not of Caesar, but of God."*
But consider Woodrow Wilson's 1914 order setting aside Mother's Day officially. In flowery, presidential language about the role mothers play exclusively in American domestic life, Wilson said nothing — nothing — about mothers' promoting peace in the world, much to the disappointment of Anna Jarvis and the admirers of Julia Ward Howe. As Mother's Day became commercialized, Anna Jarvis's own daughter — who never herself became a mother — spent her own energies trying to refocus the day on peacemaking, but it wasn't to happen. By the end of her life she was so saddened that she claimed she was sorry she had ever gotten Mother's Day started.
"Arise, then, women of this day!" Perhaps today there's time to suggest a still more peaceful Sunday.Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
May 5, 2004
· Standing Firm on Ceremony ·
A conservative decision but one fit well to the liberal tradition, too. Indeed, as we're having a Lutheran wedding presided over by a Dr. (a cell biologist happily into her second Rev. career), and by a lay Catholic deacon blessing the day a bit more sacramentally, we reasoned, quite naturally: "Yes, the ceremony demands the right balancing of two traditions, yet maybe without full deference to either." So who should pop up here to confirm our choice but the sagey Russell Kirk, whose The Conservative Mind (1953) includes this paradoxical word happily fit to our circumstances:
So how did Kirk shape our invitations? Simply by reminding us to apply custom or principle "expediently" to particular circumstances. For as we employed trial and error on our own, we considered them quite serially: two real folks asking real guests on a real day to a real place in real time for some real food — beer, wine, salad, bread, lasagna, spumoni (plus toasts, talk, jokes, and gifts) — and then we thought, "Hey, we have some real Stylechoices here (left-to-right, say), a fine couple (Suave and Savvy), and some good writing to do! Let's go for it!"
But then our headaches began. Should we be Mr. and Mrs. Styles Stylechoice, or just Styles and Stylish Stylechoice, and with, or without, the two lovely Gracearts (Holy and Grail), whose soon-to-be Dr. Savvy daughter — her seldom-used first name is Nordicsmart — is, well . . . "betrothed" hardly seemed the word for her, much less "fiancée." Stylistically, we were simply overwhelmed!
Then matters temporal intervened ("'Half after' or 'half past' what?" I asked. "Let dinner do the talkin'," my wife suggested, rightly objecting to "o'clock."), plus attendant spatial matters: "Do we want a map, Styles?" Stylish asked me. "Ask Suave, maybe Savvy," I smartly replied.
Well, we finally settled on an invitation — not "right" or "left" — but "down the middle":
We trust even if you're uninvited you might also enjoy our food for thought.Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
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