I normally loathe "X Ys For Z" posts, but this one is really great.
From his Believer interview with Nick Hornby:
My standard for verisimilitude is simple and I came to it when I started to write prose narrative: fuck the average reader. I was always told to write for the average reader in my newspaper life. The average reader, as they meant it, was some suburban white subscriber with two-point-whatever kids and three-point-whatever cars and a dog and a cat and lawn furniture. He knows nothing and he needs everything explained to him right away, so that exposition becomes this incredible, story-killing burden. Fuck him. Fuck him to hell.
Entertaining as always. Since it's just speech, download the .flv and extract the audio for your listening pleasure with:
mplayer -dumpaudio -dumpfile output.mp3 videofile.flv
Getting students to insert themselves into the stories they're reading:
In the winter, our characters go visiting: each girl chooses a climactic moment from a favorite novel and writes herself into the story, in the third person, as one of the main characters. Neil Gaiman's Coraline becomes Coraline and Caroline, in which twin sisters face off together against the "other mother"; the feral cat clans of Erin Hunter's Warrior series flourish under the leadership of newcomer Snowfur, known in real life as Camille. (Student: "Should the same things still happen in the story?" Me: "I don't know -- will they be the same with you there?")
For my money no, but I love writing that lets me understand, even if it's only a little, this kind of passionate obsession:
It was stunning. The glass gave off the most decadent, gorgeous perfume imaginable. There was a kaleidoscopic quality to the nose, with each spin of the glass coaxing forth a new aroma. In no particular order, I smelled hazelnuts, lemons, apples, pears, marzipan, oatmeal, lanolin, petroleum, honey, flowers, toasted oak, and mint. All of these scents were perfectly delineated, yet they also somehow added up to a seamless whole. On the palate, the wine had a rich, oily texture and a Platonic balance of fruit and acidity, all backed by a steel rod of minerality. Think of your favorite painting, or favorite novel, or favorite piece of music--this was it in liquid form.
e.g., "ostensible occupation", "His heart was full of enterprise", "It is a perfectly plain proposition". Lazyweb request: do some datamining, find out how common these phrases are and where Kleiser probably found them.
She felt the hand move up her back. Surely it was a hand.
Does complex, jargon-heavy writing make you seem intelligent? Apparently not. Before rushing to attack Derrida, note that the study's only real result is that fluency is the key. Increased complexity may not necessarily come at the cost of fluency. Long words are only problematic if used inappropriately.
Unfortunately, the chosen samples weren't much good. The complicated samples read as though a thesaurus had been used to inappropriately substitute words. (Which, for the experiment, it had.) The simplified samples read better, but with significant loss of nuance; even if undergraduates didn't notice, a domain expert would have.
By far the most interesting point came from the fifth experiment. Copies of the same document were divided amongst two groups, but the copies given to the second group were printed badly, making the text (optically) difficult to read. The low-toner group rated the intelligence of the author higher.
[W]hen an obvious source for the lack of fluency is present, people discount that lack of fluency when making their judgement. They do so to such an extent that they end up biasing their judgement in the opposite direction!
Fantastic collection from the "International Association of Master Penmen, Engrossers and Teachers of Handwriting", including scans of old 19th-Century school texts. My school failed to adequately teach cursive, but I always wanted to learn...
This Is Just To Say
I have killed
who was in
your novels . . .
It might be the shortest novel ever, and it might be the only novel without a word. But Hu Wenliang, the author the novel entitled 《。》, claimed that he spent one year to write a novel with five sections as follows:
Hu is offering to reward those who can understand the hidden story.
- "Stanislaus Smedley, a man always on the cutting edge of narcissism, was about to give his body and soul to a back alley sex-change surgeon to become the woman he loved."
Rotor is an experimental script created to realize the concept of letters that literally move on the “page”. It consists of seventeen minimal pairs of graphemes in which the members of each pair are identical except for the way they move ...
Hideous, but an interesting idea. I'd like to see one using the simplest possible glyphs, like a motion-based Morse code.
"Travis Tea," bless his nonexistent little heart, is the umbrella pseudonym of a group of professional authors and editors, mostly drawn from the SF and fantasy field, who each wrote a chapter or two in order to produce a book that superficially resembles a plausible novel, but gets worse the longer you look at it.