Saturday, September 26, 2009

Sam gets punny

Q: What do you call a caveman who just wanders around?
A: A Meanderthal.

Gently easing back into this blogging thing...

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Must... add... link...

to one of umpteen thousand discussions of how dumb you can end up looking when you confuse spellchecking with proofreading. And this site reminded me that there's a name for "spellchecker-induced" typos: Cupertinos. (Does that cover spellchecker-approved but incorrect words as well?--like "pubic" for "public" or "new" for "knew"? Or do those go by "wordos" or some other name-o?)

Next up on the skewer: Helen Fisher, the anthropologist with the obnoxious agenda.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Right to Ignore Julia Cameron

So I've heard all sorts of people, first- and second- and third-hand, rave about Julia Cameron--The Artist's Way, the morning pages, etc., etc. And it sounded like she might provide some good inspiration, hand-holding, encouragement, whatever. And that she does. I've been skimming through her book The Right to Write, and she says a few things that feel true enough to me, and useful enough, that I've typed them out into my file (or, one of my files) of quotes. Here's something I like: "The obsession with time is really an obsession with perfection. We want enough time to write perfectly. We want to write with a net under ourselves, a net that says we are not foolish spending our time doing something that might not pay off." I like her when she's being pragmatic, steering me toward writing as craft rather than (necessarily) Art.

But then there's the whole business, on every page practically, about how writing wants to be written, you're only the vessel, etc., which is just plain too mystical for me. I don't doubt that it feels that way to many writers--that some force outside their consciousness is directing their stories or poems--but I'd chalk it up to something within the writer rather than an external force, a Higher Power. Maybe my magical thinking days really are over, or the Buddhism hasn't yet kicked in.

And then she tells us what she said to the woman who's dyslexic and can't spell: "Just use spell check," I told her. "Or even just a dictionary. . . . It doesn't matter if you 'can't' spell. We've got computer programs to do it for you." Christ almighty--that again. I have no problem with the spirit of her advice--I agree, the dyslexic woman ought to just write and not let her spelling worries hobble her. But what she's going to need once the writing's done isn't spell-check or some computer program: she's going to need an intelligent proofreader. Does Julia Cameron really imagine that her own books have gone straight from machine to machine, from her computer to the publisher to the printer? Judging from the dearth of errors in the edition I'm reading, this one's gone through a refining process that involved careful scrutiny by skilled humans, probably at several different stages.

And then the paragraph that made me toss the book down in disgust: "I am thinking back to high school. We have been assigned to read The Scarlet Letter. I find the book boring despite its adultery. I find particularly annoying the long passages about nightfall and burning sticks and the way the light fell or didn't fall against the moors. It is now thirty years later and what I remember of The Scarlet Letter is not Hester Prynne's plight but those images of flickering firelight dancing on the moors."

Maybe Hawthorne's an acquired taste; maybe I shouldn't roll my eyes, or let my lip curl with scorn, when someone calls The Scarlet Letter boring. To each her own. But "moors"? WTF is she talking about? "Flickering firelight"? She "remembers" even less about The Scarlet Letter than she thinks she does. Moors? In New England? "Mood," yes, that word's in there a lot, and so is "moon," but "moors" and the "flickering firelight" dancing thereon she must have gotten from Wuthering Heights and/or some Hardy novel. And because she trusts "computer programs" to fix such problems, and evidently didn't see the need to engage a literate copyeditor, her ignorance is now blissfully enshrined in type.

So much for The Right to Write. Back to Assyriana...

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Quiet Force of Progress

Barack replaces Bush, and the force of progress succeeds the progress of force. Hallelujah.

And here's one irreverent comment on the inauguration festivities--irreverent but irrefutable: if that pudgy guy on "Little Britain" did himself up in blackface, he'd be a dead ringer for Aretha Franklin.

Friday, January 16, 2009

We sincerely hope we will never have to use the cables strung to the scenery, but it's nice to know they're there. --Ben Lerner

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Post the First

I have been warned, J warned me, that this blog name's a lot to live up to, and it's true. So to sneak round my menacing sense of intimidation I'm going to start off by just typing a long passage, one of the many introductory sections, from the namesake. Except I should confess, now that I've typed it, that I'm still only struggling to get my feet off the ground and let my talking voice run on and escape the confines of punctuation and other pesky rules. I'm still stammering, my thoughts are still seizing up, I'm not answering my inner smug-pug as confidently as Stevie Smith did. You'd work that out soon enough for yourself, the same way you'll work out you can substitute "blog" for "book" or "novel" below, but now that I've said it I can also say you all now have been warned.

But first, Reader, I will give you a word of warning. This is a foot-off-the-ground novel that came by the left hand. And the thoughts come and go and sometimes they do not quite come and I do not pursue them to embarrass them with formality to pursue them into a harsh captivity. And if you are a foot-off-the-ground person I make no bones to say that is how you will write and only how you will write. And if you are a foot-on-the-ground person, this book will be for you a desert of weariness and exasperation. So put it down. Leave it alone. It was a mistake you made to get this book. You should not know.

And it is not to be proud I say: I am a foot-off-the-ground person; or to be superior that I say: Foot-on-the-ground person--Keep out. It is to save you an exasperation and weariness that have now already hardly brought you to this early page.

But if you do not know whether you are a foot-off-the-ground person or a foot-on-the-ground person, then I say, Come on. Come on with me, and find out.

And for my part I will try to punctuate this book to make it easy for you to read, and to break it up, with spaces for a pause, as the publisher has asked me to do. But this I find very extremely difficult.

For this book is the talking voice that runs on, and the thoughts come, the way I said, and the people come too, and come and go to illustrate the thoughts, to point the moral, to adorn the tale.

Oh talking voice that is so sweet, how hold you alive in captivity, how point you with commas, semi-colons, dashes, pauses and paragraphs?

Foot-on-the-ground person will have his grave grave doubts, and if he is also a smug-pug he will not keep his doubts to himself; he will say: It is not, and it cannot come to good. And I shall say, Yes it is and shall. And he will say: So you think you can do this, so you do, do you?

Yes I do, I do.

That is my final word to smug-pug. You all now have been warned.