(Roughly) Daily

“Good prose is like a windowpane”*…

 

Flaubert

From a page of Gustave Flaubert’s manuscript of Madame Bovary

 

Every writer, of school age and older, is in the sentences game. The sentence is our writing commons, the shared ground where all writers walk. A poet writes in sentences, and so does the unsung author who came up with “Items trapped in doors cause delays”. The sentence is the Ur-unit, the core material, the granular element that must be got right or nothing will be right…

A good sentence imposes a logic on the world’s weirdness. It gets its power from the tension between the ease of its phrasing and the shock of its thought slid cleanly into the mind. A sentence, as it proceeds, is a paring away of options. Each added word, because of the English language’s dependence on word order, reduces the writer’s alternatives and narrows the reader’s expectations. But even up to the last word the writer has choices and can throw in a curveball. A sentence can begin in one place and end in another galaxy, without breaking a single syntactic rule. The poet Wayne Koestenbaum calls it “organising lava”…

Orwell advised cutting as many words as possible, Woolf found energy in verbs, and Baldwin aimed for ‘a sentence as clean as a bone’. What can we learn from celebrated authors about the art of writing well?  Find out at “How to write the perfect sentence.”

* George Orwell

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As we perfect our prose, we might spare a thought for Lula Carson Smith; she died on this date in 1967. Better known by her married/pen name– Carson McCullers– she was an author who (with Faulkner, Wolfe, Welty, and Williams) embodied “Southern Gothic.”  She had many admirers among fellow American artists: Gore Vidal, Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller, among many others.  From across the pond Graham Greene observed, “Mrs. McCullers and perhaps Mr. Faulkner are the only writers since the death of D. H. Lawrence with an original poetic sensibility. I prefer Mrs. McCullers to Mr. Faulkner because she writes more clearly; I prefer her to D. H. Lawrence because she has no message.”

Carl Van Vechten’s 1959 portrait

 source

 

Written by LW

September 29, 2018 at 1:01 am

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