As I have tried to show, modern writing at its worst does not consist in picking out words for the sake of their meaning and inventing images in order to make the meaning clearer. It consists in gumming together long strips of words which have already been set in order by someone else, and making the results presentable by sheer humbug.
…not all that different from modern sex, huh?
(from “Politics and the English Language,” by George Orwell, whose fiction I’ve never read, and who apparently took himself way too seriously while being utterly correct. Required reading for ye old wordsmiths.)
The beer was very cold and wonderful to drink. … After the first heavy draft of beer I drank and ate very slowly.
Have to admit though, Hemingway’s personal burger recipe described in the Paris Review does not sound all that appealing.
I’ll take grade school dropout writing passionately in his prison cell over some empty, superior Yale MFA any day.
…perhaps the most reductive, sorority-girl-Facebook-status-worthy, yet insightful line from what might be my favorite ever Interwebby manifesto on “writing.” Seriously, I’m quickly becoming a huge fan of this Ryan Holiday cat.
Write all the time, they’ll tell you. Write for your college newspaper. Get an MFA. Go to writer’s groups. Send query letters to agents.
What do they never say? Go do interesting things.
What many undergraduates do not know — and what so many of their professors have been unable to tell them — is how valuable the most fundamental gift of the humanities will turn out to be. That gift is clear thinking, clear writing and a lifelong engagement with literature.
…from the New York Times, “The Decline and Fall of the English Major”
When I was guest lecturing for UVA’s MS Commerce Program last week, a number of students seemed mildly offended when I described how few Ivy-caliber university graduates I’ve met in my life that I didn’t think of as complete morons. Real sneers, one or two of them. The looks on their faces made sense, though. That’s a lot of money to spend on a piece of paper to have someone tell you that you might be a dumbass. But as my older brother always said: “if the truth hurts, say ouch.”
So why did I say this?
Because I read what people write. And I’ve met very few people who can write. And the only thing that bad writing connotes is “I don’t think.” And if my first impression of someone is “he doesn’t think,” well then…
It’s that simple. If you don’t know how to write, you don’t know how to think.
Even worse. If you don’t know how to write, you’ll never be able to perceive how others react to your thoughts, and that makes you the guy at the party everybody hates.
So what’s the solution? Study literature. Acquire that fundamental gift of the humanities that no one can put a price on. After all, nobody wants to go through life as an idiot. Or an accountant. Ugh.
So this MaLa Literary Journal is an interesting piece of work. Based in Chengdu, it’s published a lot of fantastic work by Asia-based authors, as well as hip cats like National Book Award winner Colum McCann, multi-NY Times Best Seller and Grammy winner David Sedaris, Man Asia Literary Prize nominee Murong Xuecun, and National Book Award nominee and MacArthur “Genius Grant” recipient Peter Hessler.
Check it out if you feel like purchasing the latest issue and supporting them ol’ literary arts’es.
I will put my shapeless days behind me,
fencing off the past, as a golden rind
of sand parts slipshod sea from solid land.
…a golden rind of sand parts slipshod sea from solid land.
Say that out loud.
Hold it on your tongue like an ice cube in the desert. Chew it like tobacco. Poke the decapitated iambs. And remember how few things exist until they’re put into carefully drawn out words.
By defining books as against technology, we deny our true selves, we deny the power of the book. Let’s restore to publishing its true reputation—not as a hedge against the future, not as a bulwark against radical change, not as a citadel amidst the barbarians, but rather as the future at hand, as the radical agent of change, as the barbarian.