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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Style Mechanics

   
Author Topic: Style Mechanics
extrinsic
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If writing were blacksmithing, would mechanical style be the forge fire? Maybe the hammer and tongs, the anvil, or the iron and steel themselves. Perhaps all of the above, the whole shop, all the tools and materials and the craftspersons and coworkers as well. Difficult analogy to connect, since mechanical style is a broad range of subjects, including grammar, punctuation, spelling, diction, syntax, and all of rhetoric, lingusitics, semantics, and semiotics.

The first law of writing, the only one of consequence, is to facilitate reading and comprehension ease. For prose, add audience appeal. Backtracking to reading and comprehension ease, Standard Written English, as formal and stilted as it is, is the gold standard because it is the most widely and easily read and understood English writing. Metaphor and idiom and language idiosyncracy have little overt value in SWE; however, in prose they transcend their literal meanings and become artful figurative expresssion.

Writing to a standard style is the mark of an experienced writer. Mentioning the importance of a conformance to style may and often does cause struggling creative writers headaches and eye rolling and raprobious raspberries. Phbbt! I don't need no stinking grammar lessons nor corrections from self-ordained diletantes. I learnt my grammars in grade school and don't need no more lessonings. Besides, the rigid you've gottas of proscriptive style harshes my mellow and hangs up my creativity. Too bad if audience accessibilty suffers; I'm creating, not following some dusty old stale rules.

No one likes to have their style corrected. Proper etiquette requires not doing so in situations where critique is uncalled for. Do not correct a speaker when saying irregardless while talking informally to peers. The meaning is understood already, even if the literal meaning is contrary to the intent. However, in situations where guidance is called for, be considerate and persuasive.

I've watched professors and teachers and peers physically lunge with delight at a manuscript to mark in red ink a style rule or grammatical glitch. I've had my own mansucripts marked up with red ink pointing out misunderstood and unintended vices that I'd wanted to come across as virtues. One example, I noted in a literature response paper the writer's use of an otherwise grammatical vice as a rhetorical virtue.

The professor marked "vice" as wrong and insisted the correct word was device. I reconsidered; device is stronger and clearer, though the meaning is different. A vice is a corrupt habit; a device may not be per se a corruption. The audience (customer) is always right? Yeah, most times. If clearer and stronger, absolutely. The point of writing for an audience is to write for audience ease, accessibility, and appeal.

Standard style is a writer's strongest tool. It can be a friend when all else fails. It can be a first resort when a hunch or doubt arises that a part or a parcel doesn't work. It can be fun when it's mastered beyond the summary basics taught and learned in assembly-line education. Style is my first, next, and last resort, when drafting, when revising, when editing, proofreading, or evaluating a maunscript.

Once style is in reasonable condition, easily read and accessible, then modifying for appeal may progess. Perhaps the prose is on the lackluster side. Then voice can step in and take an attitude, react to stimuli. Like a narrator or other character being harsh about a character's actions, appearance, or attitude. Stimuli deserve attitude commentary, or response; this is cause and effect or causation, a craft feature that makes its approach from voice. (Audience, craft, voice, and mechanical style.)

Rhetorical figures are figures of speech that express greater truths, so to speak, than their concrete meanings. Rhetorical figures are for expressing intangible, immaterial, abstract meanings through use of concrete, tangible, material expressions. Symbolism and imagery are two examples of rhetorical figure usage to express intangible concepts.

Any rhetorical figure may be either a grammatical vice or a rhetorical virtue, depending upon the wordsmith's caliber of artful deployment and the audience's receptivity.

Many rhetorical figures may be either situational or extended. Meaning, respectively, in singular instances or spanning parts and wholes. A shattered ancient oak tree representing destruction of an empire is an example of a situational analogy, a metaphor perhaps. Similarly, if the broken oak motif recurs, perhaps portrayed from acorn to death as a drama unfolds, spanning an entire novel, then that is an extended figure.

The very term motif means a recurring circumstance, though changed when it recurs. The acorn to oak to shattered tree given above is an example of that kind of change.

However, artful language can be taken to excess, depending on the audience. As a best practice, fall back on Standard Written English for ease of accessibility, comprehension, and appeal. SWE can be the solution for audience, voice, and craft shortcomings.

I recommend a reference bookshelf for all writers. It should include a collegiate-level dictionary of the dialect a writer writes in. Also, a grammar handbook, a usage dictionary, and a style manual in the writer's publication arena, like Chicago Manual of Style for most U.S. prose and some humanities, all in the writer's dialect.

The most basic style shortcoming I encounter in my work are diction and syntax. Is this the strongest word? Does it clearly express the intended meaning?

Is this sentence constructed clearly and for strongest impact? Maybe the object should be the subject. Maybe the sentence is too loose, too many clauses that obscure the main idea. Or too many simple sentences. Or too many similarly constructed sentences. Standard syntax: subject, predicate, object (simple sentence). Types of sentences: simple, complex, compound, and complex-compound. And for rhetorical figure writing: periodic, loose, and fragment. Stream of consciousness sentences, for example, are often loose sentences, with three or even more independent or dependent clauses joined by multiple conjunctions. Or polysyndeton is the rhetorical figure.

For more detail on sentence syntax, consider visiting OWL, Perdue University's Online Writing Lab, "Sentence Types" page. Lots of writing guidance at OWL in general.

http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/573/02

[ June 07, 2013, 05:42 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Denevius
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The importance of close attention to wordcraft is going to depend on the writer, what they're going for, how satisfied they are with what success they've achieved, and of course, what they can get away with.

Some of my favorite books in high school came from the Dragonlance universe, yet I went back and read six of those books two years ago, and I found the writing awful. Like, not just stylistically, but just plain, objectively bad. I'm sorry, but Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weiss are terrible writers. They just so happen to be terrible writers who have numerous books on bestselling lists and who have been read by hundreds of thousands. And I'm pretty sure they would laugh at anyone who considers their books awful because most people who would have that opinion haven't come close to the level of success they have, in the writing field, or in their chosen field of interests.

So, would I compare writing to blacksmithing? I don't know, you make a lousy sword and go into battle with it, odds are greatly increased that you're going to be killed. If you're a carpenter and make a lousy house, odds are the house will quickly become uninhabitable.

But you can write in a lousy manner and it can still go viral, and the fact that you've gone viral vindicates you.

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extrinsic
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I sampled Dragonlance. Not my forte now or when I was a teenager. The style mechanics are up to par. The craft is what it is and appeals to its audience.

In addition to a sub-dialect I see that targets its audience, and writing mannerisms, the writing suits its discourse community's sensibilities. The language and voice and craft are within the community's shared discourse customs.

One of my favorite short stories when I was a teenager is Kurt Vonnegut's "Harrison Bergeron." The story is on many best-of lists. I still like the story but not the writing mannerism. Vonnegut's writing summarizes and explains, tells, more than I feel is a best practice. However, shoehorning in context and texture is a convention of short stories. Vonnegut's novels also tell more than I feel is a best pratice. However, again, his audience is open to that traditional writing mannerism. Reading past the lackluster craft and voice to get to the deeper meaning and ideas is one of Vonnegut's appeals that his readers follow.

Using the sword analogy, Vonnegut's sword isn't lousy, I'd say. Lousy's connotative meaning is poor, inferior, generally, although its denotative meaning is lice ridden. Vonnegut's sword is, say, well-crafted bronze in an iron age.

I've noted that Vonnegut's writing mannerism generally appeals to sophisticated readers who read a great deal of scholarly works that are written in a rather formal and telling voice. Yet underneath his writing are great depths.

Contrarily, another of my favorite short stories is Ray Bradbury's "There Will Come Soft Rains." It has a voice I favored when I was a teenager and still do to this day. Comparing and contrasting "Harrison" and "Soft Rains" has raised my craft and voice levels toward my designed intent.

One more area, other than voice, craft, and mechanical style, continues to cause me frustration. Audience appeal. Defining my audience has gone a long way toward overcoming my frustrations. Dragonlance targets and appeals to its young, unsophisticated audience. Tel est la vie de escritur, such is the life of writing.

[ June 08, 2013, 12:09 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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hoptoad
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Hey Extrinsic, thank you for the OWL link.
Your post reminds me of the design axiom that "form follows function" in other words that the finished object has to function in the intended way. It has to be fit for purpose. The blacksmith's shop without customers is very quiet place, and most customers want horseshoes...

In context of this thread, what do you think of Ridley Walker?
Or Clockwork Orange?


Also, speaking of invented languages, what does "raprobious" mean?
[Wink]

[ June 10, 2013, 03:52 AM: Message edited by: hoptoad ]

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Not having read the Dragonlance books, I can't speak to their wordcraft, but clearly, the storytelling is what sold them.

So I say, again, that great storytelling can overcome poor wordcraft for most readers, but not vice versa. And that's why best-sellers tend to drive wordsmiths crazy--they don't think the writing deserves the acclaim or the sales.

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extrinsic
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Hey, hoptoad,

I've read Clockwork Orange, not Riddley Walker. Invented or False Languages tend to close narrative distance from their close character voices' dialogue. They nonetheless exhibit sensible and distinguishable grammatical principles. Similarly, real-world English subdialects are in-group speech or language unique to the group, derivative of Standard Written English, and probably not understandable outside the group, which is one of two principal subdialect purposes, functions, roles (vernacular, lexicon, jargon, slang, etc.): that the group expresses esoteric identity, that the group expresses exoteric exclusion.

Prose use of subdialects challenges writers and readers from being excluding by their nature, contrarily including, and requiring timely and judicious use--enough context and texture and frequency to learn a subdialect and understand its meaning, yet not so much use the subdialect calls undue attention to the False or genuine language or becomes overbearing.

Raprobious (adj): raprobium (n), boisterous derision; commonly used in phrases, "raprobious raspberries," "raprobrium raspberries"; masculine guffaws, chuckles, and other nonverbal eruptions expressing derision at the antics of a perceived foolish person, being, or action.

[ June 10, 2013, 02:57 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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rcmann
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I think art is in the eye of the beholder. If there is such a thing as an objective standard, it can only be established by consensus opinion. In which case, from my viewpoint, any writer who produces work that is read and loved by thousands of people is a good writer. I, personally, might not be able to stomach it. But I'm only one person. My single opinion does not stack up against the consensus opinion of the audience that the writers have built for themselves.

For example I offer Shakespeare, who I understand was not real popular with the literary experts of his day. Mark Twain, Jack London, Robert. E. Howard, and many other pulp Sci-Fi writers who were called hacks. But their names are still remembered and their critics have passed into justifiable oblivion.

So to me, if people like it then its good. If I don't like it, that just means that I need to find a different kind of story to read.

And in a world where James Joyce is mentioned in any English classroom in the world with a straight face, I defy anyone to prove that style is a deal breaker.

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extrinsic
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Standard Written English is as close to an objective standard as English comes packaged in. By precedent and consensus agreement, living English evolves, though, and cannot by a genuinely objective standard be objective, since living languages are ever changing, and since several main dialects with distinguishable regional differences varying markedly from each other pose their own adversarial consensus standards, and hence are a subjective matter.

Joyce is discussed seriously, widely, and at length in English classrooms across the English speaking world. Joyce scholars have an inside joke about Joyce's writing: he was perpetrating a lark on serious, hidebound literary scholars when he wrote Ulysses. Irony of ironies that, presently, Joyce scholarship has become hidebound.

Whether style is a deal breaker has little I see to do with Joyce's writing, perhaps style, if meaning artistic mannerism and flair, but not mechanical style's one law: facilitate reading ease, comprehension, and appeal. Done and dint noone tolt 'e er moi ta' 't kinna botherous a passels for crolektioners.

[ June 12, 2013, 02:54 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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hoptoad
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I think it is a given that a writer -- writing in English -- must master the conventions of standard English prior to setting about bending the rules.

Marshal McLuhan’s famous line that the media is the message indicates among other things that the way we communicate conveys a promise to the reader. The style should function to allow the reader to decode the text in a way that is closest to the writer’s intent.

Communication is obviously an act of faith. The writer sends out the message in the hope/belief that the reader will decode it in the intended way. To master and employ the conventions of standard English gives the writer and the reader a greater chance that the message will be properly received. To act otherwise removes that guarantee (for want of a better word).

The art of translation offers an interesting insight into the subject. In any translation, the words may be an accurate, portrayal of the original text but lose much of the meaning.

The two books I mentioned as a comparison. Clockwork Orange appears to have an orderliness to it's invented language but Riddley Walker does not. The orderliness of CwkO gives the reader confidence that, although they may not understand the language, there is meaning there. Riddley Walker's haphazard and inconsistent language does not inspire confidence but carries meaning.

It may be because one (CwkO) is the author's documentation of a counter-culture dialect when the other (RW) is the character's own written word.

BTW: raprobious (adj) closely associated with coproglossia [Smile]

[ June 10, 2013, 08:05 PM: Message edited by: hoptoad ]

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extrinsic
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I understand that Riddley Walker's invented language has commonality with Chaucerian English, or Middle English, which is widely recognized as unconventional in its orderliness.

I don't know about "coproglossia" being closely associated with raprobium. Maybe the two are used in similar milieus: masculine ribbing and roughhousing rites and bonding rituals, and battlefield taunting rites. Raprobium being expressed when the opposing side's coproglossia is foolish. Coproglossia is, I imagine, closely associated with coprophagy, but speech instead of ingestion.

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hoptoad
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Hi Extrinsic,

I edited the post above, to make it more useful to readers of the thread. So some simul-posting problems. Sorry about that old bean.

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extrinsic
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Gotcha, hoptoad.

Clockwork Orange's invented language somewhat follows standard, contemporary grammatical orderliness and principles and is comparatively easy to relate to for it.

John Grice, creator of the Grician Maxims and coiner of the term implicature, comprises his linguistics philosophy in the Cooperation Principle; that is, that communication among social beings is a matter of cooperation. For English language writing, that is using Standard Written English in the dialect of the writer or the milieu in which the writer writes. Standard Spoken English is a theoretical standard that is anything but standard across culture groups.

Mechanical style is only one of the four primary methods of prose expression; audience appeal, craft, and voice are the others. The Cooperation Principle demands that prose be appealing, vigorous and well-crafted, and in a lively voice or at least a voice suited to the subject matter, the occasion, and the audience, or decorum as a rhetorical appeal. Lively appeal, voice, and craft benefit from timely and judicious deviations from standards.

Using "coproglossia" as an example of the Cooperation Principle, I easily comprehended its meaning immediately. Decorum, particularly, the occasion and the audience, however, requires that its full meaning not be posted to a PG-13 audience, like Hatrack. That audience is sophisticated enough to find out if interested. A greater Cooperation purpose requires that the term's meaning not be given openly, that of avoiding giving unnecessary offense and, thus, being uncooperative.

Yet the context in which you use coproglossia in a lively craft and voice, and targeted niche audience appeal, is artful and, hence, cooperative.

[ June 17, 2013, 12:59 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Denevius
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quote:
So I say, again, that great storytelling can overcome poor wordcraft for most readers, but not vice versa. And that's why best-sellers tend to drive wordsmiths crazy--they don't think the writing deserves the acclaim or the sales.
I'm not *entirely* sure I get the meaning behind this quote. I understand and agree with the first part, that great storytelling can overcome poor wordcraft. Though I do think that, for those stories, they're usually good for a first read only. Subsequent readings, though, fall flat, as the great strength of great storytelling is suspense, having the reader wonder what happens next. Once that's known, in a second read, you're forced to pay attention to all the stuff those types of novels are lacking. I do think Dragonlance books fall in that category. With each re-read of them, the experience suffers a steep decline in enjoyment.

However, a book that has both, say "A Confederacy of Dunces", or "Catch 22", I think holds up to many rereads because their story is great, but the writing itself, the construction of words, is so intricate and varied. These novels work on multiple levels, many of which you tend to miss when you're just trying to find out what happens next in the first run through.

Actually, as I wrote this, I think I get what you were trying to say. Great storytelling can overcome poor wordcraft, but great wordcraft can't overcome poor storytelling. *If* that's what you meant, I'm not sure that's especially true. I think the problem in your comparison came with the 'best-selling' aspect of the remark, which is a specific benchmark by which you can judge the success of a book. What comes to mind to negate this belief is "Fnnegans Wake", which, hey, I haven't read, as I've heard it's unreadable. But it strikes me as one of these books that has awful storytelling, which is why it's unreadable, but is quite successful in that, well, it's "Finnegans Wake". It's considered one of the greatest books written in the English language, and I'd say the exact opposte of a Dragonlance in craft.

I was trying to watch a movie, "Upstream Color", by Shane Carruth, who did "Primer", which won the top prize at Sundance ten years ago. Though I always cringe when I have to start talking about movies in a book conversation, the fact of the matter is that "Upstream Color" has that element of awful, awful storytelling, and yet movie reviewers the nation wide have been praising it for its brilliance of vision. When I hear "vision" in film, I think craft in writing. The way the flick is constructed, especially to those who understand movie construction, or film critics/scholars, see something in how this movie, unwatchable by most, creates an experience that goes beyond the simple 'what happens next' of plot.

Again, it'll never be a summer blockbuster, just as a book whose strength is language will probably never be a bestseller. But I'm not sure it's fair to judge a book's success by the standard of what its existence when created probably was never really going for. There are some schools of thought which say that storytelling is an intellectual shallow reason to read a book anyway. I don't agree with this, but it's not an unpopular notion in literary circles, who would of course have their own benchmark of success for writing.

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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I tried reading FINNEGAN'S WAKE, and it's quite a kick. I didn't get far, but I submit that listening to it (or reading it out loud) might help it make more sense than just trying to puzzle out meaning from the marks on paper.

I also suspect that at least some of the acclaim for FINNEGAN'S WAKE may be something similar to the acclaim for the new clothing that the storied emperor wore in the fable.

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extrinsic
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I've read James Joyce's Finnegan's Wake, Ulysses, Dubliners, and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, each at least twice, and excerpts more than a few times. I won't support or denounce Joyce's writing more than to suggest it's worthy of both. Joyce's writing mannerisms are what they are; his audience is what it is.

I'm currently reading Dubliners, a collection of leading contemporary Irish writers' short works. But have nothing to say about it yet, nor is it relevant per se to the following:

I don't believe Joyce's writing would have enjoyed as much acclaim if he hadn't had respected, supporting believers cherishing and promoting his aesthetic against the many detractors denouncing him. Controversy sells, one; and, two, scandal stimulates attraction. Labeled pornography, obscene, excrement, and banned, censured, ridiculed, and derided, in its time and still today, Ulysses's content spawned its own passionate popularity and opposition. As did others of Joyce's works.

Finnegan's Wake, likewise, excited passions. Dubliners widely passes muster among literary fiction readers, though hints of Joyce's emerging aesthetic are contained therein. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is widely recognized as the most accessible of Joyce's work. Afterward, his works progressed toward increasing inaccessibility according to conventional expectation consensus standards.

Features of Joyce's aesthetic that set him apart include experimental structure, anti-structuralism, anti-formalism, anti-romanticism, anti-modernism, vigorously pro-realism, and a writer strongly favoring Postmodernism's core convention and propriety dissent before its recognized time. Also, stream of consciousness, abundant free direct and indirect discourse (untagged character voice speech and thought not easily distinguished from narrator voice), highly figurative language to the point of artful excesses, nonlinear timelines, and nonlogical causation, abundant allusion and allegory references to classic and popular culture motifs, and a deep and unconventional insight into the human condition, for all humans' virtues and vices, failings and frailties, and nobility and wickedness.

Finnegan's Wake is an unconventional narrative form for a novel. The prose and voice is similar to a semi-lucid waking dream state, akin to a degree to an informal epistolary journal or diary, though in third-person narration of a family's everyday slices of life anecdotes. Joyce doesn't slice his characters' lives like an orderly MRI or CAT scan slices a body's radiology imaging. His slices focus on actions that expose his characters' private and perhaps secret and unseemly identities and it is bereft of traditional or conventional dramatic structure features.

Actually, I've read similar texts, though whether they constitute creative narrative prose is open to question. I've lived in houses with strangers sharing living expenses. Each house had a custom of documenting household bills, phone messages, long distance calls, and intrahousemate memos on a spiral bound notebook journal kept beside the telephone shrine in the living room. Housemates recorded musings and thoughts and jokes, gossip, rumor, brief narrative anecdotes, vignettes, and sketches, drawn and written, doodles and droodles, and print clippings and xerox lore and such in the telephone journal. Every page had humorous content, tragic content, interesting and intriguing, privately revealing content, like Finnegan's Wake. Paralells between the two forms continue to intrigue me.

Joyce's writing is not amenable to single-sitting reading episodes. It's intended to be savored in small doses, and when open and welcoming toward the mannerisms. He wrote as if the audience would stroll along a garden path taking in the landscape sights on a quiet evening after dinner, sipping cordials and smoking cigars or pipes, as sophisticated readers had up until his time. Technology and culture had passed that era by, by the time of Joyce's writing. I guess he was both before and after his time, and he nostalgically sought a return to and artful departure from a bygone era.

Joyce was somewhat of a manic depressive, prone to manic flurries punctuated by depression fits, or had a bipolar condition I don't think quite as severe as a psychological disorder's crippling presentations. He spent his last seventeen years on-again, off-again writing Finnegan's Wake.

[ June 12, 2013, 07:26 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Thank you, extrinsic. That's all good to know.
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hoptoad
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Finnegan's Wake. It makes me wonder who JJ's intended audience was. Clearly, he is not selling horseshoes for the general population -- blacksmith analogy -- perhaps he was creating an exhibition piece designed more to mentor/challenge other craftsmen.
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extrinsic
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Ornate wrought iron puzzles, I imagine. Mobious strip-like twisted bar bulbous cages confining enticing charms, trinkets, and pendants that are difficult to remove from their confinements.

Joyce's audience to me seems to be readers who are welcoming toward his unique world view. He didn't preach or correct or control nor promote poetic justice or predeterminism, but his outlook he wanted to spread to willing auditors who would carry on his unconventional philosophy. If there's a central message he promoted, I'd say it's that no one is perfect.

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hoptoad
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Something that is not so much written, as read.

Samuel Beckett might add in a puzzle or two designed to take off fingers ( ! )

[ June 12, 2013, 11:49 PM: Message edited by: hoptoad ]

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extrinsic
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quote:
Originally posted by hoptoad:
Samuel Beckett might add in a puzzle or two designed to take off fingers ( ! )

I imagine pending puzzle solvers of Beckett's finger traps would self-reflexively wonder what was the point and do nothing; nothing would happen either.

For the benefit of others following this thread, Beckett wrote the play Waiting for Godot. He's a Nobel laureate. Though Beckett was partly inspired by Joyce, nihilism seems to me a major departure of Beckett's work.

[ June 17, 2013, 12:55 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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rcmann
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Just as a matter of curiosity, would anyone have even a ballpark estimate on the number of people in the world who have read "Waiting for Godot" and/or any of the drug induced spasms that Joyce put out... vs. the number of people in the world who have read and enjoy the world of Rober E. Howard (Creator of Conan, Solomon Kane, Red Sonja, etc.)

Not that I would dare suggest that popular appeal is of more value than the acclaim of the intelligentsia. Heaven forbid.

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MAP
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rcmann, I bet more people have read or seen (since it is a play) Waiting for Godot than have read the Conan series. Waiting for Godot is actually a pretty awesome play, and very funny even if it is a bit of a head trip.

I'm not really sure how popular the Conan books are. Sure they are read by most (although not by me) fantasy fans, but we are kind of in the minority when it comes to general reading population.

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Brendan
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Ah, but if you bring in the play (fair enough given that is "enjoying the world" of Howard), then you will have to bring in the films of Conan. Arnie anyone?
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RyanB
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Let me add to the discussion A Song for Ulvaak:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YnKOvOjKLH0

I've been obsessed with this song the last few days. Actually, I've been obsessed with the studio version (I'll get to that later).

The first few times I heard the song I didn't know what it was about. I assumed Ulvaak was some fantasy hero I hadn't heard of. The song was nice but not nearly as interesting as Allie's other songs.

But then my curiosity peaked enough to find the meaning of the song. It was written by a nerd culture comedian. It's about a D&D character who goes to kill a lich king and the lich gives him the spiel about them being fantasy characters.

I didn't realize this until now, but the story in the Youtube version is different and IMO inferior. For the studio version someone shortened the song and the resulting shape of the story is exquisite. The plot is funny and smart.

The words are perfect.

The music is beautiful and Allie's voice enchanting.

But I wonder how well the song works if you don't understand the context. The style is high fantasy. If you're familiar with the high fantasy tradition are the strange ordering and redundant adjectives repulsive?

Or is there something intrinsically beautiful about the phrase "down a crooked hallway crept" apart from any context?

I think there is. Dr. Seuss works well enough with children and adults.

But the song did not become exceptional to me until all the pieces fit together. The lesson is to have a right style for your story.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar and How the Grinch Stole Christmas are both beautiful stories. I consider the former to be the perfect children's book. The latter is an exceptional book for any age. They have differing styles but they are both right styles for the story they tell.

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MAP
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quote:
Originally posted by Brendan:
Ah, but if you bring in the play (fair enough given that is "enjoying the world" of Howard), then you will have to bring in the films of Conan. Arnie anyone?

LOL, I don't think so. Waiting for Godot was written as a play. It's meant to be seen not read. Conan's original form was a book, not a screenplay.
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extrinsic
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The "intelligentsia" community, of which I'm a dues-paying and acknowledged and esoteric member, as well as blue collar, white collar, and pink collar cultures, prohibits me from revealing the cabal's arcane and sacred secrets. Like Joyce's and Beckett's publishing revenues from creative words.

Actually, raw data is not available about the fiscal performances of either. Joyce, after A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, didn't want for money, meals, or drink. He traveled extensively and was treated, hosted, sponsored, feted wherever he went, even by denouncers. I believe he achieved the fame and fortune he desired in the manner he desired; that is, as it had been for writers before his time: celebrated.

Beckett, at times witting and willing and at times unwitiing protégé and mentor of Joyce, didn't want for anything fiscal either soon after his first public, published, forays into his absurdist, nouveau avant-garde aesthetic. He did not attend the Nobel ceremonies featuring his literary award celebration. He did, however, accept the awards, including the cash prize of 880,000 SEK (Swedish Krona, SEK. c. US $140,000, € 105,240), (Nobel award 8 million SEK in 2012, c. US $1.2 million, € 0.93 million).

Beckett donated his Nobel cash to needy folks and groups. I don't believe he was wanting for money.

Waiting for Godot: a tragicomedy in two acts is Beckett's own translation of the equally lauded and denounced French original: En attendant Godot. Stage play scripts enjoy copyright protections and reproduction rights use similar to prose; however, the revenue channels' practices are different. Printed scripts generally earn similar royalties; actual performance fees are assessed according to size of performance space and span of performance run.

The next Godot Broadway performance will be repised in November 2013 at the Cort Theater, starring Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart. Yes, that Patrick Stewart.

Both Joyce and Beckett limited reproduction of their works during their lifetimes. Their estates continued limitations afterward. Most of Joyce's works' copyrights expired January of 2012, though.

Joyce's relevance owes a great deal to the controveries surrounding his works; they will become more so now that their copyrights have expired. That many people who denounce them and haven't read them makes them more relevant than not. Yet the most appreciable value of Joyce's works is the narrative methods he used to express his insights and perceptions. Joyce perfected a stream of consciousness method and an interior discourse method that many of his contemporaries and writers since have emulated, including Howard. Any writer will benefit from studying Joyce's techniques; get guidance straight from the source.

Take any writer's writing of substance, today, anytime in the latter twentieth century, and you will find voice features originaly unique to Joyce.

This is the value of Joyce: That readers and nonreaders passionately discuss his literary relevance, approvingly or otherwise, and that he contributed to the advancement of writing narrative techniques that are apparent in every writers' mannerisms afterward, though perhaps not connected through a single degree of separation, but several degrees of separation, maybe as many as six.

[ June 14, 2013, 05:37 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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rcmann
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Pretty plainly a cultural chasm here. I had never heard of Waiting for Godot until a few years ago, and I learned about it from browsing the internet. I am not a young man either. But I do have a college education, and I like to think that the several thousand books (fiction and non, 'classic' and popular) that I have read in my life give me at least some background in literature.

But then, I don't watch plays. Ever. I watch tv, rarely nowadays. I watch movies, online, sometimes. I have never seen Cats, nor Hair, and have no interest in doing so. People with my cultural background, i.e. lower working class redneck, simply don't go to plays very often.

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rcmann
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quote:
Originally posted by extrinsic:


Take any writer's writing of substance, today, anytime in the latter twentieth century, and you will find voice features originaly unique to Joyce.


*recoils*

Egad, I hope not. I am striving to emulate Twain, London, and their ilk. If I ever find, or have pointed out to me, that I have done something Joyce-like I would be forced to burn the manuscript and have an exorcism performed on my laptop.

Seriously, I would gladly read more of Joyce, just to gain a deeper understanding of what the fuss is about. But my digestive system simply can't take it.

RE: the money issue, why do I suspect that some of those guys didn't start out flat broke? I don't know though. Like I said, just because I don't like something doesn't mean it isn't good. In any case, I haven't read or seen Waiting for Godot, so I hold no opinion on that one either way.

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extrinsic
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Twain is one of Joyce's inspirations, at least in how they both defined literary success, being feted wherever they went and not wanting for anything material. Twain's aesthetic though is markedly different in that he favored raconteur-like narrative voices.

Joyce came from a privileged background that slid into poverty during his middle childhood, though one of both emotional and physical neglect and abuse.

[ June 14, 2013, 05:32 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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hoptoad
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quote:
If I ever find, or have pointed out to me, that I have done something Joyce-like I would be forced to burn the manuscript and have an exorcism performed on my laptop.
Heh, heh. Rcmann, my aged, melodramatic friend. [Smile] Even if you are fallen to sere, and yellow leaf... burning manuscripts (lift me on the pyre), seems a kind of Cross Plains driveway logic.

[ June 14, 2013, 06:52 PM: Message edited by: hoptoad ]

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rcmann
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From American Heritage:

rac·on·teur (rkn-tûr)n.
One who tells stories and anecdotes with skill and wit.
[French, from raconter, to relate, from Old French : re-, re- + aconter, to count up, reckon; see account.]

Harper-Collins:

raconteur [ˌrækɒnˈtɜː] n
a person skilled in telling stories
[French, from raconter to tell]

I can think of no higher praise toward which a fiction writer might aspire. Then again, it is an article of faith for me that all story telling is ultimately the heritage of those ancestors of ours who sat around the fire all winter, passing along the lore of their people and telling embarrassing anecdotes about their friends and neighbors.

To me, it is the story-teller's job to do all the work. Just my opinion. But I don't believe that a reader (or listener) should be forced to strain themselves to follow a story, much less should the reader be made to consider themselves less sophisticated, or less intelligent, than the story-teller. To me, that's nothing but literary arrogance. It's only conceivable purpose is to make the author feel better about themselves. Which is fine, if that's what floats your boat. But it's not going to win a lot of affectionate regard from the audience.

A story that requires work on the part of the audience is not a story, it's a statement of the author's self-aggrandizement. There is no reason to write down to the audience. By all means, give the audience a chance to enjoy figuring things out and staying one step ahead of the story-teller. But that's not the same as inventing an artificial language that only the author understands, or employing obscure dialects and atypical spelling that gives the reader a headache when they try to follow along.

A rich, carefully crafted, deeply polished background is wonderful. But it must be readily comprehensible to the reader in order to make a good story. A story that leaves the reader confused and/or frustrated, which is what Joyce does to me and many, many, many others with whom I have compared notes, is not what I consider admirable.

Again, just my opinion. But a strongly and long-held one.

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extrinsic
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Approaching Joyce with an open and welcoming mind makes all the difference. Just letting the poetry and prosody flow and meaning arise subliminally (sub-threshold) resolves Joyce into a solved puzzle, which is what Joyce admirers appreciate. And Samuel Beckett, Vladimir Nabokov, and Anton Chekhov. The four most derided writers of recent times.

But I can no more persuade denouncers of Joyce's value than I can dissuade admirers. It's a perfect world: perfectly variable, perfectly contentious, perfectly messed up. Without varying headwinds to struggle against within and without, we'd all be stuck in bathtubs contemplating our navels and living on lotus blossoms growing conveniently from our bathtubs. Yes, Joyce superficially violates the Cooperation Principle, but his admiring readers in his day and still today are not barred by his self-involved, witty, lively, and poetic word play.

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rcmann
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I truly don't want to deride anybody. If I find a particular approach to be unattractive, that's merely my opinion. I think I said multiple times before that just because I don't like something is no proof that it's not good.

Obviously, many people are still reading Joyce and enjoying his work. The fact that it makes me recoil and causes unmentionable things to occur in my digestive tract has nothing to do with whether or not it's good. It just means that I don't like it. I don't like harlequin romance stories either, but there legions of readers who might flog me with their pumps for saying that:)

Cultural divisions again. So much of this is base don cultural divisions. My public schooling did not include much, if any, modern writers. The few that it did touch on were Bradbury and other mainstream popular figures that we might easily have encountered at the magazine rack or on tv in the evening.

My training was not oriented toward literature. It was oriented toward science. My college required a minimal amount of English for my major, and that minimal amount was oriented toward scientific and technical writing.

I never even heard of "Lolita" until I was full grown and working overtime every week, with no free time to look up off-the-beaten-path literary works. The only poetry that I eve read or liked was the ancient ballads and translations from some of the Norse sagas.

Beckett, Nabokov, and Chekov were names that I encountered withing the last two decades. By that time, my hidebound and ancient tastes have pretty well become set in stone. Modernist, Post-Modernist, avant-garde, stream-of-consciousness... my knee jerk reaction is to mutter "Bah" and go pick up a copy of Robert Frost, or or Dumas, or re-read one of my dog-eared copies of Solomon Kane.

I'm not trying to deride anyone, I just don't like that stuff because it's not a good match for my world view and my cultural indoctrination. I have found though, and this *does* irritate me, that many (I am NOT talking about anyone on this board) people who style themselves as being authorities in the field of literature have remarkably provincial attitudes when it comes to evaluating books and poetry. If it doesn't fit within a narrow set of requirements, often involving the author's connection to the "right people" then they don't consider it worth their time. Unless the author makes hundreds of millions of dollars, and they are forced to acknowledge them while looking like they swallowed a bad oyster. Or until the author has been dead for a few decades. Then they suddenly become chic and interesting.

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Denevius
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quote:
Not that I would dare suggest that popular appeal is of more value than the acclaim of the intelligentsia. Heaven forbid.
If we're using popular appeal to determine the value of one's writing, does that make our writing worthless since it appeals to no one (or a handful of people)?
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InarticulateBabbler
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rcmann, I'm inclined to agree with you on rather reading my dog-eared (though I would never dog-ear my books) copy of Solomon Kane than Joyce. In fact, I'd rather watch paint dry, up close. Joyce for me, is less exciting.

Maybe you hit the nail directly on the head with "World View," or maybe I can relate to Bob Howard on so many more levels. Howard's fiction--and his letters to H.P. Lovecraft--in large part was grounded in barbarians vs technology, and he was noted for believing he was born the wrong era. The latter is a feeling I get quite often.

On the subject of R.E.H., I feel that it needs pointed out that REH only wrote one Conan novel: The Hour of the Dragon. Conan's story was mostly unfolded in short stories published in Weird Tales, and was so beloved that it (Conan's tale) was kept alive from October 1936 (Red Nails, the last Howard Conan story) until today. It went through edits, pastiches (written by the likes of Robert Jordan and Steve Perry, who are best sellers), comic books (from Marvel AND Dark Horse), movies, cartoons, video games, role playing games and television representations and we still picture the iconic images and motifs represented by Robert E. Howard, Frank Frazetta and John Milius. Howard is touted as the "Father of Sword and Sorcery." Not too bad of an accomplishment for an 11 year publishing history, from age 19 to age 30.

As far as Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan staring in "Waiting for Godot," they are also starring in "No Man's Land" on Broadway--but, I've heard more about McKellan officiating Stewart's marriage to Sunny Ozell, who is half Stewart's age.

Meanwhile, even after the failure of the 2011 Conan the Barbarian, Arnold Schwarzenegger signed on for Legend of Conan (which is rumored to be based on Howard's The Hour of the Dragon) in which we will see Schwarzenegger as King Conan of Aquilonia--wearing the crown upon a troubled brow [Smile] .

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History
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Pomegranates and apples.
As much as I enjoy the pulp fiction writers, I need recognize the literary genius of Joyce. His stories possess keen insights into what is true and real and inescapable in Life: like Araby (a story of a boy's transition to adulthood via the self-realization of his vain escapist romantic imagining of the world rather than seeing it as it really is) and The Dead (a masterpiece of characterization, dialog, setting, and emotion; a story of isolation and miscommunication, of the misperceived separation between the living and the dead, of the dead/deadness between and within the living, and the vanity of believing we ever truly know someone or ourselves).

REH similarly has a hard no-nonsense view of life, especially of civilization which he considers an ephemeral thing, a pretense with which Man deludes himself. Recognizing the cyclical nature of the rise and fall of civilizations, his stories emphasize the "reality" of the self-honest barbarian who, inevitably, will triumph over all. This theme is repeated over and over ad nauseum in Howard's stories, which are easy-reading simple prose adventures that otherwise do not try the reader with additional or personally relatable moments of self-discovery.

Respectfully,
Dr. Bob

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rcmann
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quote:
Originally posted by Denevius:
quote:
Not that I would dare suggest that popular appeal is of more value than the acclaim of the intelligentsia. Heaven forbid.
If we're using popular appeal to determine the value of one's writing, does that make our writing worthless since it appeals to no one (or a handful of people)?
Nope. IMO if one person likes it, then it has worth. I will grant that I tend to assign greater worth things that gain greater appeal and stand the test of time.

In fairness, at by the test of time standard, I acknowledge that the writings of Joyce have worth. I personally neither enjoy them nor gain any insight from them. But that in no way proves that they lack worth. merely that they are not a good fit for me.

All creative endeavors are evaluated by subjective standards. Some people regard primitive art as beautiful and emotionally moving. Other people see it as crudely carved chunks of wood and ivory, or muddy splashes on a cave wall. Beauty and literary merit are in the mind of the beholder.

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extrinsic
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Anton Chekhov coined the term verfremdungseffekt for meaning an intentional audience distancing effect in theatrical performances. Chekhov believed audiences should be conscious, critical thinking observers of plays so that they would not be unduly emotionally influenced by the drama. He believed audience members should think for themselves. Joyce, Beckett, and Nabokov followed suit. And more recently, Vonnegut and Thomas Pynchon.

Chekhov thought if the action was too engaging, too self-idealizing, too emotionally stimulating and appealing that audiences could be persuaded toward socially inappropriate (anti-social noncooperation) or self-harming thought, speech, and behavior. The passage of history has shown the likelihood is worthy of consideration: individually, globally, and all points between. Rhetoric, the core of creative writing, after all, is on its surface the art of persuasion. Intentionally self-serving, persuasive rhetoric combined with a measure of force majeur, the human condition regresses.

What constitutes progress of the human condition is open to many interpretations; however, the one universal ideal relevant in contemporary times and throughout human history is cooperation for a greater good. Malefactors will turn that ideal, too, to wicked purposes. Intentionally promoting thinking and deciding and acting consciously, critically for one's self is a Chekhov contribution to the noble advancement of the human condition and a worthy strategy for meaningful independent living, though, again, malefactors will turn that ideal to wicked purposes too.

Anyway, Joyce did think for himself, and his writing appeals to audiences who do, in his and their degrees of unique cooperation. His distancing effects serve their functions, though on the surface they seem to be noncooperative in literary conversation terms.

Which brings us back to Standard Written English style mechanics' universal appeal: its comparative ease of interpretation by the most possible readers.

[ June 16, 2013, 01:08 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Reziac
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I'm not sure if Joyce was literary genius, or rather, one has to be in the right state of ...imbalance... to appreciate him. If I'm in the mood it's fascinating; if not, it's horrid.
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