Category Archive 'Writing'

09 Aug 2014

Nietszche’s Rules of Style

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salome-nietzsche
Lou Andreas-Salome poses jestingly as dominating female with Paul Rée and Nietszche.

Maria Popova shares the ten rules of writing sent by Friedrich Nietszche to Lou Andreas-Salome.

Between August 8 and August 24 of 1882, Friedrich Nietzsche set down ten stylistic rules of writing in a series of letters to the Russian-born writer, intellectual, and psychoanalyst Lou Andreas-Salomé — a woman celebrated as the “muse of Europe’s fin-de-siècle thinkers and artists,” to whom Rainer Maria Rilke would later come to write breathtaking love letters. …

Collected under the heading “Toward the Teaching of Style,” they read:

    Of prime necessity is life: a style should live.

    Style should be suited to the specific person with whom you wish to communicate. (The law of mutual relation.)

    First, one must determine precisely “what-and-what do I wish to say and present,” before you may write. Writing must be mimicry.

    Since the writer lacks many of the speaker’s means, he must in general have for his model a very expressive kind of presentation of necessity, the written copy will appear much paler.

    The richness of life reveals itself through a richness of gestures. One must learn to feel everything — the length and retarding of sentences, interpunctuations, the choice of words, the pausing, the sequence of arguments — like gestures.

    Be careful with periods! Only those people who also have long duration of breath while speaking are entitled to periods. With most people, the period is a matter of affectation.

    Style ought to prove that one believes in an idea; not only that one thinks it but also feels it.

    The more abstract a truth which one wishes to teach, the more one must first entice the senses.

    Strategy on the part of the good writer of prose consists of choosing his means for stepping close to poetry but never stepping into it.

    It is not good manners or clever to deprive one’s reader of the most obvious objections. It is very good manners and very clever to leave it to one’s reader alone to pronounce the ultimate quintessence of our wisdom.

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The 1882 photo scene depicted in “Beyond Good and Evil” (‘Al di là del bene e del male’) by Liliana Cavani (1977).

07 Nov 2013

Prose Style Analysis

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I write like
H. P. Lovecraft

I Write Like. Analyze your writing!

What is alarming is that I ran two samples of my writing, one a political editorial, the other an appreciative essay on a rare angling book, and both got the same result. My guess is that test is responding to my vocabulary.

Hat tip to Chico Kidd.

23 Feb 2010

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

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Ten rules (sometimes fewer) for writing fiction from Elmore Leonard, Dianna Athill, Margaret Atwood, Roddy Doyle, Helen Dunmore, Geoff Dyer, Anne Enright, Richard Ford, Jonathan Franzen, Esther Freud, Neil Gaiman, David Hare, P.D. James, AL Kennedy, Hilary Mantel, Michael Moorcock, Michael Morpurgo, Andrew Motion, Joyce Carol Oates, Annie Proulx, Philip Pullman, Ian Rankin, Will Self, Helen Simpson, Zadie Smith, Colm Tóibín, Rose Tremain, Sarah Waters, Jeanette Winterson.

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Col. George Washington, Foxhunter (Ralph Boyer, aquatint, Fathers of American Sport, Derrydale Press, 1931)

One day belated notice of the birthday of our neighbor and compatriot in the hunting fields of Clarke County, George Washington.

When he was 14 or 15 years old, George Washington copied out by hand 110 “Rules of Civility and Decent Behaviour in Company and Conversation.”

Washington’s maxims came from a translation of a treatise Bienseance de la Conversation entre les Hommes produced by the pensonnaires of the Jesuit Collège Royal Henry-Le-Grand at La Flèche in 1595. René Descartes studied at the same college just a few years later, 1607 to 1615.

The case of George Washington, I would suggest, can be taken to demonstrate that residence at Harvard, Yale, or even La Flèche is not an absolute requirement for leadership success or good manners.

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WSJ comments on the Obama plan to ram the health care bill through, damn the rules of the Senate and the wishes of the public.

The larger political message of this new proposal is that Mr. Obama and Democrats have no intention of compromising on an incremental reform, or of listening to Republican, or any other, ideas on health care. They want what they want, and they’re going to play by Chicago Rules and try to dragoon it into law on a narrow partisan vote via Congressional rules that have never been used for such a major change in national policy. If you want to know why Democratic Washington is “ungovernable,” this is it.

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David Brooks discovered that something has gone wrong with the meritocratic revolution, and wonders if this might have something to do with the new elite not being quite so meritorious as had been supposed.

[H]ere’s the funny thing. As we’ve made our institutions more meritocratic, their public standing has plummeted. We’ve increased the diversity and talent level of people at the top of society, yet trust in elites has never been lower.

It’s not even clear that society is better led. Fifty years ago, the financial world was dominated by well-connected blue bloods who drank at lunch and played golf in the afternoons. Now financial firms recruit from the cream of the Ivy League. In 2007, 47 percent of Harvard grads went into finance or consulting. Yet would we say that banks are performing more ably than they were a half-century ago?

Government used to be staffed by party hacks. Today, it is staffed by people from public policy schools. But does government work better than it did before?

Journalism used to be the preserve of working-class stiffs who filed stories and hit the bars. Now it is the preserve of cultured analysts who file stories and hit the water bottles. Is the media overall more reputable now than it was then?

The promise of the meritocracy has not been fulfilled. The talent level is higher, but the reputation is lower.

29 Oct 2006

Write a Novel in November

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There’s still time to sign up.

link

All this is not as crazy at it sounds. There is a book associated with this annual event by Chris Baty, titled: No Plot? No Problem!

The whole affair (book and annual contest) is really an exercise in learning how to write, by building confidence that obstacles can be overcome, and by establishing firm and productive work habits.

Look at it this way: the November writing project does demonstrate annually that it really is possible to produce some kind of novel by only a month of determined and persistent effort. So if it really would take most of us a few more months to produce anything worthwhile, it is still good to realize that the work is really finite and well within the capabilities of a great many of us.

Hat tip to Steve Bodio.


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