the night ferry

And how about another lizard, which in this case is Alexander. It’s been ten days since I saw him last. I no longer know what this means. I’ll just keep watching for him. Perhaps Orangelina chose not to have a mate this year, simply because I said she couldn’t make that choice, it wasn’t in her. Perhaps she sent him away. I spin tales, I watch the leaves for a flash of blue.

alexander-with-bird-poop-on-his-head.jpg

In addition to Bryan Ferry, there are a few people I am thinking about/reading up on/talking to this summer and Fall for writing projects. I’m going to speak to each of them in person at least once, but some of the write-ups will be in letter form. There is also a card deck in process, a few magazine articles, all of this completely unrelated to beading (as much as anything can be said to be “unrelated to beading”.

Since I decided to identify as a writer (astoundingly this gives me almost perfect cover in life, especially if I actually publish things) I’ve realized that it’s good to have a lot of projects going on at once, as I would in any medium.

Bryan Ferry looking fabulous in a chair for the ten thousandth time

I have such astounding people in my life. Some are particularly powerful avatars; like Ferry, they pack multiple gifts, powers, or virtues. In that group are a couple of writers, some dead.

E.B White is in that lot; he is a huge factor in my life.

Today, I got some strange looks in Brooklyn Pizza as I was collapsing helplessly in laughter over the introduction to Strunk & White: The Elements of Style, Third Edition (I carry it almost everywhere in case I need a lift) but they only thought I was odd because (obviously, duh) they hadn’t read it. If they had, they would know it was hilarious. Hunter Thompson famously typed the entire Great Gatsby in its entirety (if he can ever be believed about anything) so that his hands could get the feel of typing a truly great novel. True or not, it sounds good, which at some level is all that matters. I have done this with White’s essays; if I am unfocused, I will read or type one of them; it’s like reciting poetry might calm a stage actor.

Regarding the original book by William Strunk, White writes, in his introduction,

“In its original form, it was a forty-three-page summation of the case for cleanliness, accuracy, and brevity in the use of English. Today, fifty-two years later, its vigor is unimpaired, and for sheer pith I think it probably sets a record that is not likely to be broken. Even after I got through tampering with it, it was still a tiny thing, a barely tarnished gem.”

and in the next pages he says (and I have quoted this once before here, but the passage always bears up to repeat readings),

“The professor devotes a special paragraph to the vile expression “the fact that”, a phrase that causes him to quiver with revulsion. The expression, he says, should be “revised out of every sentence in which it occurs.” But a shadow of gloom seems to hang over the page, and you feel that he knows how hopeless his cause is. I suppose I have written “the fact that” a thousand times in the heat of composition, revised it out maybe five hundred times in the cool aftermath. To be batting only .500 this late in the season, to fail half the time to connect with this fat pitch, saddens me, for it seems a betrayal of the man who showed me how to swing at it and made the swinging seem worth while.”

In his added fifth chapter (a bare bit of baggage on the original forty-three pages) White writes, of Tom Wolfe’s beautiful sentence, “Quick are the mouths of earth, and quick the teeth that fed upon this loveliness” that the sentence would take no prizes for clarity,  but if rhetorically corrected loses its spark.

“What was poetical and sensuous has become prosy and wooden; instead of the secret sounds of beauty, we are left with the simple crunch of mastication. Whether Mr. Wolfe was guilty of overwriting is, of course, another question–one that is not pertinent here.”

Of Strunk and White’s simple rules of composition, I routinely break almost a third.  Perhaps the most sacred, “Omit needless words”,  I can only dream of achieving, and the most elemental, “Do not inject opinion”, I cannot embrace.

You can get your own copy for around five dollars or less used; I strongly recommend it.

Strunk and White, Third Edition

5 thoughts on “the night ferry

  1. Oh I have that book! I have never even opened it. I will now.

    “Quivering with revulsion” I like that term too. I am writing these down.

  2. Oh, if only Mr. White was available today to (pithily) comment on the sad state of affairs that is our lovely, convoluted King’s. I refer mainly to the spoken version, which daily assaults one’s eardrums with bon NOTS such as, “at the end of the day” (repeated ad nauseum) and “it’s concerning to me …” The saddest part? Hearing the above not during lowest common denominator reality TV, but the nightly news broadcast.

    • It’s sad out there. Newspapers are full of drivel and bad writing too. I only get the NYT Sunday edition, and so am insulated from all but the online versions of other rags.

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