21 Jan 05
Literary Growing Pains
‘There is no satisfactory explanation of style, no infallible guide to good writing, no assurance that a person who thinks clearly will be able to write clearly, no key that unlocks the door, no inflexible rule by which the young writer may shape his course. He will often find himself steering by stars that are disturbingly in motion’ (Source: E.B. White, The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr & E.B. White, Chpt. 5)
I recently received some books that caused me to think about my writing. Maybe I should have added studying English literature and language to my New Year’s Resolutions, as there seems to be plenty of room for improvement.
This self-assessment began when I started to read Remembrance of Things Past (3294 pages) by Marcel Proust. The three-volume set was thoughtfully sent as a Christmas gift by one of my sister’s colleagues, Jill Shiel. My first impression of Volume 1 was negative, the pace seemed to be too slow. I wondered why Jill had chosen Proust, but after reading over 100 pages I began to suspect that Jill wanted me to read a style of writing par excellence.
Despite my initial doubts I quickly began to enjoy the genius of Marcel Proust. I found myself in awe of his figurative language and I began to reread the sentences that mesmerised me the most. Here are some descriptions I enjoyed.
"…the heat of the day was falling and settling, as though in a vase along the sides of which the transparent, dusky jelly of the air seemed of such consistency that a tall rose-tree, fastened against the dim wall which it veined with pink, looked like the arborescence that one sees at the heart of an onyx."
"…the churches of Criquebec which, in the distance, surrounded by water on every side because you saw them without seeing the town, in a powdery haze of sunlight and crumbling waves, seemed to be emerging from the waters, blown in alabaster or in sea-foam, and, enclosed in the band a variegated rainbow, to form an ethereal, mystical tableau."
After reading Volume 1 of Remembrance of Things Past, I started F. Scott Fitzgerald’s, Tender is the Night.
I am envious of the talents of Proust and Fitzgerald. I have now set about improving my
Unlike my sister, Karen, who has studied English her entire adult life, I have not studied English since high school.
Despite my shortcomings, I am endeavouring to use all of the resources at my disposal to improve my abilities. My father kindly sent me The Oxford American Writer’s Thesaurus for Christmas and I am seeking approval from the prison’s education department to do some correspondence courses with www.riosalado.edu/ci who provide non-Internet courses for prisoners.
ENG213: Introduction to the Study of Language, would be beneficial. It is described as the Study of language as code: phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, language acquisition; historical and socio-linguistics.
ENH275: Modern Fiction, also interest me. It is described as including "novels and short stories for modern writers which reflect significant themes of our time."