Saturday, June 18, 2005
Read Books to Improve Your Blog Writing
The conversation around the tea table of Fernande [Picaso] was not lively, nobody had anything to say. It was a pleasure to meet, it was even an honour, but that was about all. Fernande complained a little that her charwoman had not adequately dusted and rinsed the tea things, and also that buying a bed and a piano on the installment plan had elements of unpleasantness. Otherwise we really none of us had much to say.
...her elder brother once remarked, I do not know whether Gertrude has more genius than the rest of you all, that I know nothing about, but one thing I have always noticed, the rest of you paint and write and are not satisfied and throw it away or tear it up, she does not say whether she is satisfied or not, she copies it very often but she nevers throws away any piece of paper upon which she has written.
--Gertrude Stein, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas(1933)
LESSON FOR BLOGGERS: How To Write in a Reserved, Detached Manner
What can we as bloggers learn from just these two separate sections of text by Gertrude Stein?
A lesson in aloof writing, as an antidote for tendency to gush forth emotionally, oblivious to the risk of sounding "too excited", "narcissistic hedonism", "too entangled on a personal level".
She wrote this book Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas as though she was not herself, but someone who often talked of her, someone else, a friend, name of Alice. And not just anything by Alice, a detective mystery or romance novel, a book of poems, no, none of that: instead, a spurious, unauthorized, pseudo-autobiography, that is labeled an actual "autobiography."
Did you know, or suspect, it was this complex? Before the text even begins, the title is a, well, it's an Error.
The title Deconstructs the story, you must pretend, along with the author, that this Alice who speaks in the autobiography she did not write herself, this Alice is an approximation of the real Alice, whilst knowing much or all of it could be pure fancy, not even remotely based on the actual Alice.
How would this be like a Fictional Character Blog?
A Ghost Blog?
A paid "word of mouth" buzz agent infiltrating blog comments, online forums, bulletin boards, and discussion lists, posing as a regular customer, pretending to have purshased, used, and thus, heartily recommend, a product?
What I Like About The Writing...
What I like is how cold, detached, icy, frozen, scientifically barren this writing is.
Instead of writing, as I might have written, and in fact must now write, "...buying a bed and a piano on the installment plan was an outrageous annoyance, driving her nearly crazy with all the forms and questions, going here, then going over there, meeting with this person, sitting in the office of that person, feeling mortified at being reduced to having to buy something in this ignoble manner, so close to begging, this commercialized borrowing mixed with gradual ownership via a sequential, incremental payment system."
...Stein instead pens this aloof, restrained description: "...buying a bed and a piano on the installment plan had elements of unpleasantness."
This is so bland, it shines with genius.
"elements of unpleasantness" can conjure up a whole range of more rugged images, ugly statements uttered, shame-based reactions, contorted facial expressions.
Your friend asks, "How was your first day at the coal mine?"
You say, "While I'm happy to have the job, the work itself had some elements of unpleasantness."
Try taking an emotional sentence you've written, and tone it down to reflect zero emotion.
NOT: "This is a hideously, insanely stupid idea that will ruin us..."
BUT: "This is not an idea most prudent and pragmatic persons would likely embrace..."
Great, classic authors, male and female, from all nations of the world, have much to teach us about writing.
Find an author you like, and ask yourself why you like this writer, and how their style has influenced or even shaped your own blog authoring style.
Do you sometimes reflect one great influence, and at other times reflect the influence of another? Who are they?
I like Marcel Proust, Kafka, Rilke, Hemingway, Poe, James Thurber, John Updike, Will Self, Hawthorne, Twain, Dickens, Maurice Blanchot, Alain Robbes-Grillet, Jean Rhys, Jean Cocteau, Jacques Derrida, Edith Wharton, and many others.
[signed] Steven Streight aka Vaspers the Grate
Posted by steven edward streight at 6/18/2005 10:53:00 PM