Tag Archives: Roger W. Smith

“The tone is college admissions essay.”

 

“The tone is college admissions essay. Typical sentence: ‘In an environment of maximum pressure, I learned to ignore the noise and distractions and instead to push for results that would improve lives.’ ”

“Every political cliché gets a fresh shampooing. ‘Even in a starkly divided country, there are always opportunities to build bridges,’ Kushner writes.”

— Dwight Garner, review of Breaking History: A White House Memoir, By Jared Kushner, The New York Times, August 17,. 2022

Generic writing, aka boilerplate.

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

  August 2022

Walt Whitman, ‘Slang in America”

 

Walt Whitman, ‘Slang in America’ – North American Review, November 1885

 

Posted here (PDF file above):

Walt Whitman, ‘Slang in America”

North American Review

November 1885

 

“Language, be it remembered, is not an abstract construction of the learned, of of dictionary-makers, but is something arising out of the work, needs, ties, joys, affections, tastes, of long generations of humanity. ….”

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

  August 2022

 

 

TOO MANY words

 

When asked by a student once, how long should a composition be, my high school English teacher replied: as long as required to cover the subject; no more or less.

 

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The following is an essay about the invasion of Ukraine by Patrick Le Hyaric, a French journalist, politician, member of the European Parliament, and a director of the newspaper L’Humanité.

“Le monde peut basculer dans le pire d’un instant à l’autre”

By Patrick Le Hyaric

Le monde peut basculer dans le pire d’un instant à l’autre

This opinion piece is far too long. The author says far too much. Which is to say, in other words, he tries to say everything he or one can conceivably think about the subject of his essay. Whereby he ends up confusing the reader and not conveying anything clearly, really. His key points — whatever they are — get lost in a muddle.

— posted by Roger W. Smith

    March 1, 2022

new post: inclusive language (mandated by the language police)

 

Please see me post

“This is going too far.”

on my Roger’s Gleanings site

This is going too far.

 

It is about language policing.

— Roger W. Smith

misgendering?

 

 

On October 7, the Author’s Guild, to which I belong, had a Zoom conference; “Finding Your Agent: 7 Steps to a Successful Query Letter.”

I find that such presentations vary in usefulness, but there are usually one or two helpful tips. The conference was well attended. The presenters were two young professional women in the areas of publishing and writing who were articulate and knowledgeable.

Discussing how to write a letter in which one pitches a book, they began by advising: If you have met the editor before — say at a conference or lecture — it is a good idea to mention that you have met before, so as to remind them of you.

Then they said, it’s probably best to begin the letter “Dear Mary,” or “Dear Phil.”

I thought to myself, what? This is good practical advice? When I was about the age of the presenters, and was trying to get a foothold in the publishing industry, or to get hired for freelance work — and when writing letters in general then and even now, as well as emails — my default, if I am not on personal terms with the person I am writing to, is “Dear Mr.” or “Ms.,” “Dear Professor,” and so on. And, of course, beginning with being taught how to write a letter in grade school (is this taught any more?), we were taught the importance and rules of the elements of a letter such as the salutation.

The presenters from last week explained: it’s best to write “Dear Mary” or “Phil” if you don’t know the person. You wouldn’t want to be “caught” misgendering them, they said. They said this with complete assurance, as if we all would know what they were talking about and would agree with this. Heaven forbid we should be so clueless as to not know this.

What is this politically correct world coming to? I thought.

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

   November 2021

Can writing really be this bad?

 

Theodore Dreiser, ‘Will Fascism Come to America’ – Modern Monthly

 

Theodore Dreiser

“Will Fascism Come to America?”

Modern Monthly 

September 1934

 

1,602 words

1,602 words too long

And what does this screed have to do with or say about the rise of fascism?

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

   September 2021

bloated writing

 

For he actually desires not to see a new State erected in America—one that may end capitalistic adventure as we have known it—but the present one so altered in spirit, the so-called “pioneer spirit” in industry—as to cease concerning itself so completely and selfishly and exclusively with the individual’s personal advance—to change in fact into one in which the so-called pioneering individual will see himself as a representative not only of himself but of the country and the people and the national resources of the same, an environment out of which and by the reason of the presence of which it is possible for him to become the successful individual that he does become—if and when he so does become. And that is certainly a very different interpretation of the kind of individual success we need and ought to have if we are going to have for very much longer any such so-called democratic government or nation as our American Constitution calls for. For, according to Bridges—and I quoting him exactly—”when you are anti-labor you are anti-American. For to be anti-labor you have to rob people of the right of free speech, the right to strike, to assemble, to petition and protest, and therefore, you have to be fundamentally unconstitutional and so anti-American.” And having watched the quarrels between capital and labor outside the American newspaper and editorial business for forty-eight years I can heartily agree.

— Theodore Dreiser, “The Story of Harry Bridges,” Friday,  October 11, 1940

 

“Hitler was no good at all at first. …”

 

“Observer; Baseball for Hitler”

By Russell Baker

The New York Times

June 18, 1996

 

Baseball turned its back on Adolf Hitler last week. As the team owners said in a formal statement, “When your business has troubles as bad as ours, who needs to mess around with Der Fuhrer?”

So saying, they persuaded Marge Schott, majority owner of the Cincinnati Reds, to give up control of her business. In a flagrant exercise of the First Amendment, Mrs. Schott had spoken well of the early Hitler.

One sports story reported that she had said “Hitler was good at first.” This sent me to the archives where I discovered that Hitler was no good at all at first, and not at second either.

Rudolf Hess’s memoir says, “The Fuhrer could have been a great shortstop if he hadn’t gone into politics,” but Hess was crazy as a loon when he wrote it.

A more reliable source, Hitler’s masseuse, wrote a book titled, “I Rubbed Hitler the Wrong Way,” which indicates he had very little interest in baseball. “One day while massaging Hitler’s arm,” she wrote, “the Fuhrer seemed in a light-hearted mood, so I ventured to speak to him as follows:

” ‘Do you know, mein Fuhrer, that if you were an American baseball pitcher what your pitching arm would be called by the scribes?’

” ‘Scribes? Scribes?’ he said. ‘Explain scribes to me.’

” ‘They are sportswriters,’ I said.

” ‘So,’ he said, ‘these scribes would call my pitching arm what?’

” ‘They would call it “the old soupbone,” ‘ I said.”

Hitler ended the conversation abruptly, telling the masseuse that when the Wehrmacht occupied America he would like to see a game from the best seat in Camden Yards, but that would have to wait until he finished conquering Russia.

Here is final proof of Hitler’s ignorance of baseball: Camden Yards was not built until 50 years later, and even then he couldn’t have got a decent seat unless he was a corporation. By then, of course, no scribe had called a pitching arm “the old soupbone” for 50 years, and no sportswriter had been called a scribe for 45.

Most of the Nazi leaders were hopelessly ignorant of baseball, as we discover in the Hitler file. Hermann Goring, being the great collector and chief looter in the Nazi hierarchy, apparently wanted a baseball signed by Babe Ruth.

In a note to Hitler the propaganda chief, Joseph Goebbels, wrote that Goring was writing to a woman in enemy America. Impressions in Goring’s desk blotter, said Goebbels, showed that a note had been sent to a New York woman named Babe Ruth.

Totally ignorant of baseball, Goebbels advised Hitler to turn Goring over to the Gestapo and explain his correspondence “with this American Mata Hari.”

Hitler, who was soft on Goring, was “delighted,” he wrote in a note to Eva Braun, to show his “superior knowledge of American culture to Goebbels.”

“I told him that Babe Ruth was the name of an American candy and that Hermann, who has a sweet tooth, was probably ordering some from New York,” Hitler wrote.

We now know, of course, what Goring was really up to. His gardener’s memoir, “Down the Primrose Path With Goring,” reports that he was often ordered to stand in a hay field for hours chasing fly balls Goring hit off a fungo bat. The gardener writes:

“He once said to me that Hermann Goring was not much more corpulent than the greatest batter in history. ‘What’s more,’ said Goring, ‘both of us are named Hermann.’

“I didn’t know then that Herman was only the second name of the famous Ruth and that it had only one ‘n,’ while Goring’s was his first name and had two ‘n’s.’ ”

Goring apparently hoped to meet Babe Ruth once the Wehrmacht occupied New York and to impress the Yankee slugger by smacking a few batting-practice pitches out of the park. Babe Ruth, he hoped, would be impressed enough to sign a baseball, thus making it unnecessary to loot the Baseball Hall of Fame.

The baseball owners’ distaste for Hitler reminds us that baseball and Adolf once had something in common. Hitler became furious because a black American sprinter, Jesse Owens, beat the flower of Aryan athletics in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Such an embarrassment could not have happened that year to major league baseball owners. They simply didn’t let blacks play.

 

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Absolute genius (on Russell Baker’s part).

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

   March 2021

“Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu” is regarded as a classic. I would say, “Great effort.”

 

‘Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu’

 

“All writers are vain, selfish, and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives there lies a mystery. Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand. For all one knows that demon is simply the same instinct that makes a baby squall for attention. And yet it is also true that one can write nothing readable unless one constantly struggles to efface one’s own personality. Good prose is like a window pane.” [italics added]

— George Orwell, “Why I Write”

 

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John Updike’s 1960 New Yorker article about Ted Williams’s last game for the Boston Red Sox: “Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu” (The New Yorker, October 22 1960) is frequently quoted and seems to have a status akin to “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.” (See downloadable Word document of the full Updike text, above.)

 

What is wrong — in my “contrarian” opinion — with Updike’s piece?

It is too long (it needed pruning).

It is too fine (typical of New Yorker pieces); too “literary and (at times) too flowery.

It is the work of a brilliant, undeniably talented writer whose dazzling performance — like that of some virtuosos — comes between you and the subject matter, i.e., the focus of the piece: the great baseball player Ted Williams, his last game.

One tires of Updike’s verbal pyrotechnics, his asides (authorial interventions, commentary).

Is this reportage or an essay? Updike tried to do both. I think it was a mistake.

“Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu” is regarded as a classic. I would say, “Great effort.”

 

— Posted by Roger W. Smith

    January 2021

 

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See also my post:

“Saul Bellow on writing”

Saul Bellow on writing