First words

   within due proportions, circumscribe
What e’re you write; that with a flowing Tyde,
The Stile, may rise, yet in its rise forbeare,
With uselesse Words, t’oppresse the wearyed Eare

– John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester, ‘An Allusion to Horace’, 1675

My face when there's Hemingway

My face when too much Hemingway’s in the way

I like words. But I often think funny. Which is probably why I’m not very good with them – words, I mean. Ah, I picked a wordpress theme called ‘Hemingway Rewritten’, but my syntax is already wading into Jamesian waters (nb. Henry, not Baldwin). I love me some good irony, but this kind of irony is bad – at least for the reader, who – if not a stylistic sadomasochist (eh, case in point?), would probably go for concision over conjugates any day.

Absolutely fair. Reminds me of my professor’s comment on one of my first-year essays:

Jen, could we please tone down the Jamesian touch and be a bit more Hemingwayesque with the prose?

I think that statement made my degree. ‘Too much James; too little Hemingway’ sounds like the sort of thing you’d suffer a premature death for just to have it made into your epitaph. I mean, in more morbid moments, I know I would.

And in case you haven’t picked up on it already, I really really like alliteration. Like, seriously obsessed. To me, it achieves a sort of sublimity that seals the sonic and the sight in one successive sequence. See what I mean? (Sorry, that demonstration spilled over.) (And over.)

So, just a caveat lector.

Don’t worry too much though, because if three years of doing an English Lit degree has taught me anything about myself, it’s that I’m mostly past that self-conscious, florid BS-flaunting phase. Having once genuflected at the shrine of Derrida and his ‘Pomo’ proteges, I am now a staunch ‘good style’ convert. By which of course I don’t mean Hemingway (God forbid), who, perspective depending, either hates words or just loves the “and” conjunctive too much.He tries too hard to ‘imp’ maschimo onto language, and I don’t like that, for its glaring want of ebb and flow and fun and games.

The way I see it, his prose is but a kind of aesthetic assault, delivered in the guise of a repressed asceticism. It’s like he thinks that anything with more than two syllables should be shot. Which is, of course, what he ended up doing to himself. Go figure, eh? (Cf. Raymond Carver’s short story ‘Cathedral’, a minimalist tour de force that takes the Hemmie register up a notch)

Anyway, enough chat about someone I don’t have much literary love for (although I’m open to being convinced otherwise by any Hem-fans out there). I’m honestly not a very judgemental person, but it just so happens that anything lit-/writing-related, I tend to have rather strong views on. It’s almost like I’m the living proof of Sayre’s law, except even more trivial.

This blog is going to be about – no, scratch that, I actually don’t know what it’s going to be about. Except I didn’t do a digital scratching of that last sentence, because I want that point highlighted.

Ugh, looks like my style is still tethered to that old self-conscious ‘LOOK AT WHAT I’M DOING WITH WORDS AIN’T I CLEVER’ mode. Pray, then, reader, that you shall see some change down the line. And as such, I leave you thus:

Pray thee, take care, that tak’st my Blog [Book] in hand,
To read it well: that is, to understand.

– Ben Jonson, Epigram I


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