[ExI] silly 'rules'

Dan danust2012 at gmail.com
Fri Sep 18 20:25:14 UTC 2015

On Friday, September 18, 2015 12:14 PM spike <spike66 at att.net> wrote:
>> "I'm saying one should limit oneself to trying to be like them in terms of
>> writing -- as of something is writing that unlike Hemingway (or unlike a
>> caricature of Hemingway) has missed the boat"
> Many or perhaps most of us here are techy types.  In our school years we
> were required to take lit classes but plenty of us just went through the motions.
> (Did you do that too?)

Pretty much my experience too. I did take on science fiction course on my own, but the required courses that were outside my major were mostly nonsense stuff, IMO at the time. And the instructors weren't doing much to persuade me otherwise. (To be sure, the science fiction guy was all right, but it was a bullshit course. No one was going to drop out of school and go to work making more money at a startup because of that class.:)

> Then when the college days were over, some of us looked back at what we
> missed, and learned that it requires a different way of thinking.

Well, one problem is that earlier education tends to make writing and reading into chores with the writing part bound by bad rules. (Again, not arguing for no rules or not standards, but rules like "don't start a sentence with a connective" or "don't end in a preposition" are not valid rules at all. These are rules some grammarian foisted on English that stuck because some people don't know better.)

> The math, the physics, the chemistry, all those comfort zones for so many of
> us, didn’t help in explaining why some kinds of literature makes us feel.  I
> didn’t really learn to feel until after they had already handed me a diploma
> and an invitation to go off and invent things.  My vocabulary is still limited in
> those gray-area fields, for I didn’t even start developing those areas of the
> brain until long after those synapses were already being occupied by
> calculus and details of astronomy, programming languages and all the
> usual cool stuff.

I was arguing against silly rules and arbitrary standards, and further against sacralization of certain writers or styles. I'm not saying everyone must needs become a literature maven and discuss the merits of Shakespeare and Faulkner all day long. On the latter, too, offlist I mentioned using Shakespeare (or Hemingway or pick a author literati genuflect before) as a trump card -- as if merely mentioning their name banishes all argument and thought. If you're interested in an author (or an author's style or work), that's fine. But if you're presenting them as a standard for great writing (or great storytelling or great whatever), then be prepared to tell exactly why they should be considered thus. If we were discussing a scientific theory or a new technology as great, we would all, I trust, have some idea of how to discuss this and not merely say it's great because, well, it's great and say "gosh wow, isn't it great."

(All right, to be certain, Spike, you sometimes share your enthusiasm here and it passes without comment or analysis because, I'm guessing, we all get it. Even with Hemingway, I got it. The story affected you -- though not enough to make you change your educational path or analyze it further. No criticism there, just making an observation. And me? Well, I'm kind of coming from a different place on this and taking a more empirical or maybe analytical approach to the style question. I'm also tired of seeing people bow before arbitrary authorities. This isn't to knock Hemingway or Shakespeare from their pedestals. But if no one can really say why they're great, the best thing to do is either be precise with "many people think they're great" or find out if and why they are.)

Anyway, it's not like the world's going to end anytime sooner because of this discussion. :)



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