Not in the clamor of the crowded street, not in the shouts and plaudits of the throng, but in ourselves, are triumph and defeat.--Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

REDIRECT ALERT! (Scroll down past this mess if you're trying to read an archived post. Thanks. No, really, thanks.)

Due to my inability to control my temper and complacently accept continued silliness with not-quite-as-reliable-as-it-ought-to-be Blogger/Blogspot, your beloved Possumblog will now waddle across the Information Dirt Road and park its prehensile tail at http://possumblog.mu.nu.

This site will remain in place as a backup in case Munuvia gets hit by a bus or something, but I don't think they have as much trouble with this as some places do. ::cough::blogspot::cough:: So click here and adjust your links. I apologize for the inconvenience, but it's one of those things.

Thursday, September 25, 2003

Hey, you know what this party needs!?!

Why, one of the increasingly rare excerpts from the fine little Everybody’s Writing-Desk Book (1901 Edition) by Don Lemon and Charles Nisbet, that’s what!

As you all may recall, this tiny little book was a Christmas present last year from dear Miss Reba—an O. Henryesque sort of gift, in that she has no idea about that I write this silly blog, but obviously she knows I need some help.

I have been doing bits out of it since December, and have just about pumped the well dry—it’s only 310 tiny little 16mo pages long, and more than half is taken up with WORDS OFTEN MISSPELLED, ABBREVIATIONS, and FORMS OF ADDRESS—ENGLISH, FRENCH, AND GERMAN. (Did you know that the proper way to address an emperor or king in English is “To the King’s Most Excellent Majesty”, and the opening salutation is “May it please your Majesty”? In German, this becomes, “Seiner Majestaat dem Deutschen Kaiser (und ‘Koenige’)”, with the letter addressed to, “Allerdurchlauchtigster, Grossmaachtigster Kaiser (und Koenig), Allergnaadigster Kaiser (Koenig) und Herr!” Nah, I didn’t know that, either. And a side note--I had to replace all the little umlauts and stuff because they were showing up as question marks and making a big mess all over the floor. The closest phonetic equivalents were substituted.)

Anyway, with all that stuff, there’s not a lot of room left over for some really good advice about how to write, but what’s in there has been just wonderful. And so, we come to the last bit of wisdom from this particular source:
4. Component Parts of a Composition

Unity.—The highest praise of any literary work is unity, by which is meant that its parts are all in perfect agreement, alike in substance and in form, all composing one complete whole. An artistic work is like the Cosmos, all conceived as a whole at one time in an one mood—in contradistinction to patchwork, which is made up of different pieces. The unity of any of the Gulliver Travels, e.g. is much admired. Everything in Lilliput or Brobdingnag is all on the Lilliputian or Brobdingnagian scale—the men, the seas, the navy, etc. Nor does Robinson Crusoe belie itself at any part from first to last. The Pilgrim’s Progress is also wonderfully sustained. In Flaubert’s Salammbo is no word referring to any time or any place but that of ancient Carthage.

Coleridge’s highest praise of Shakespeare is ‘self-denial’, or complete effacement of the individual writer in the subject. In Homer, Shakespeare, the reader is in the presence, not of Homer, not of Shakespeare, but of man, the world. The characteristic of all classics is quietness of style, i.e., self-equality, or strict subordination of all parts, down to the figures and words, to the whole. The bane of the magazine style, on the other hand, is the itch to shine.
Well, there you go.

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