Sunday, December 11, 2005

How to make sentences and influence no one

This post may be ignored. It is just an attempt to explain the fun I am having here.

The joy of writing arises only from our natures and skills. But it is so much the better if we apply it to a worthy subject. When the thinking is sound and begins with comprehensive facts, then the writing is worthy and not merely a pocked and wheezing invalid dressed in a fancy suit.

My nature and skill yields a middling result for doting on vocabulary and for want of time to absorb the full spectrum of pertinent information, hungry though I am for all of it. Burke's Connections, which I love more than I trust, is the model of my writing. Like a rabbit running dog, I follow wispy traces across centuries and oceans if only google will provide them. Time and will are soon exhausted and with whatever facts and notions have stuck like burrs in my brain, I concoct my skimpy thesis. The bias, I claim, only comes in the writing. The joy comes in both the digging and the writing.

There is a process implied above. Here is an example.

Kingslake was an author who reveled in his language. Read him for the fun of seeing English flex its muscles. Decades ago, I subscribed to Harper's Monthly. No place can I find the copy or any online reference, but I do recall a very short article in the magazine in which the writer apologized but then dropped a name. He once happened to be in an elevator with Sir Winston Churhill. Not entirely abashed in this presence, he got up the nerve to ask Sir Winston what his inspiration was for the considerable skill with which he mustered the language. The one word answer was "Kingslake".

Thank god for elevators...they enforce a bracing brevity better than anything else.

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