Category Archives: Writing

Elmore Leonard: 10 Rules For Writing

Do writers think up rules for writing as a way to avoid writing?

Elmore Leonard: 10 Rules.

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‘What a bitch o…

‘What a bitch of a thing prose is!’ Flaubert complained in a letter to Louise Colet while at work on Madame Bovary. ‘It is never finished; there is always something to be done over.’ Fanatical in his search for a style that, as he put it in another letter, was as ‘rhythmic as verse, precise as the language of the sciences, undulant, deep-voiced as a cello, tipped with a flame’, Flaubert devised a method for purging his sentences of unwanted repetitions. What he called the gueuloir (from gueuler, ‘to bellow’) was his practice of yelling prose at the top of his lungs until he felt it had been condensed to its sonic core. During one particularly savage gueulade he told the Goncourt brothers he felt he was going to spit blood.

From Carthachinoiserie, by Paul Grimstad, in the London Review of Books,

reviewing Flaubert’s ‘Gueuloir’: On ‘Madame Bovary’ and ‘Salammbô’ by Michael Fried


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by | September 4, 2014 · 3:00 pm

Professor Prufrock

Let us go to the lecture hall
Where the board is spread against the wall
Like an upturned, felt-denuded pool table.
I shall walk up half-deserted aisles,
‘Midst muttering denials
Of papers done in all-night coffee binges
With marks and stains around their tattered fringes.

In the pond the ducks swim to and fro,
Quacking of Michelangelo.

There will be time, there will be time,
To prepare some notes to quote to faces in their seats.
There will be time to quibble and digress,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a paper on your desk.
Time for you and time for me
And time yet for a hundred indecisions
And for a hundred visions and revisions
Before the taking of a break at three.

In the pond the ducks swim to and fro,
Quacking of Michelangelo.

And indeed there will be time
To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do you care?”
Time to lecture to the air.

For I have know the eyes already,
Known them all—
The eyes that fix you as you hypothesize,
And when you have hypothesized ten angels on a pin,
And have them pinned and wriggling on that head,
Then why do they begin,
To ask how long the midterm is, and why
Is it so soon?

Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through narrow halls
And watched the sorrow rising from
The lonely adjuncts, scrawling at their desks? . . .

I should have been a don at Trinity,
Scuttling across the floors of Bodleian.

And can it have been worth it, after all,
Can it have been worth while?
After the bachelor’s and the master’s and the doctorate,
After the papers and the book, after the tenure that I struggled for—
And this, and so much more?
Can it be possible to make my point more plain?
Oh, to have a magic hammer drive the thoughts into their brains:
Can it have been worth while
If one, stifling a yawn and gazing round the hall,
And turning toward the window, should say:
“I don’t see it at all,
I don’t see what you mean at all.”

No! I am not Socrates, nor was meant to be;
Am an associate prof, one that will do
To chair a committee, teach a class or two,
Advise the dean—he is, no doubt, a fool.
I grow dull. . . I grow dull. . .
My class is scarcely one-half full.

Shall I take sabbatical? Do I dare to stay away?
I shall vote for Socialists, and shelter all my pay.
I have heard the students speaking, each to each.

I do not think that they will speak to me.

We have lingered in the chambers of the school
By hiding in the library ‘til four
When we must give a lecture, and we bore.

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Fifth Business, Robertson Davies

Mrs Dempster was not pretty–we understood prettiness and guardedly admitted it as a pleasant, if needless, thing in a woman–but she had a gentleness of expression and a delicacy of colour that was uncommon. My mother, who had strong features and stood for no nonsense from her hair, said that Mrs Dempster had a face like a pan of milk.

I envy the perfection of stood for no nonsense from her hair. Without any actual physical description, Davies forces me to imagine her hair, and tells me what kind of woman she is.

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