Death by Living – N.D. Wilson’s new book released today. What are you waiting for?
No Squishy Love – “Why do many Christians shrink from any thought of the wrath of God? R.P.C. Hanson has said that many preachers today deal with God’s wrath the way the Victorians handled sex, treating it as something a bit shameful, embarrassing, and best left in the closet. The result is a less than fully biblical construal of who God is and what he has done, especially in the redemptive mission of Jesus Christ.”
Three Reasons Why the Pro-Choice Position Appeals to Cowardly Men – And reason #377 why I love Matt’s blog. Seriously, if you haven’t already subscribed, go do it. Now.
The Tech of Elysium – So much to love about this. August 9th can’t arrive soon enough.
Intrusive Grace – Beautiful.
Unambitious Loser With Happy, Fulfilling Life Still Lives in Hometown – “Longtime acquaintances confirmed to reporters this week that local man Michael Husmer, an unambitious 29-year-old loser who leads an enjoyable and fulfilling life, still lives in his hometown and has no desire to leave.” Poor thing.
Gifted, 29, Unemployed, and Living in the Basement – A must-read.
“Do you ever wake up in the morning and suddenly wonder why you have not bought such-and-such a book long ago, and then decided that life without it will be quite unbearable? I do frequently.” – Lewis
Following worship and a fellowship meal yesterday afternoon, hymnals were distributed and singing was begun. As various members of the congregation made requests, one of my younger sisters (age six) made it known that she wanted to sing #236: “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”.
So we did. It sounded good, too.
Looking back, however, I can see my initial reaction for what it was: abysmally wrong-headed. Standing there, hymnbook in hand, hearing my sister request a “Christmas song” at the height of summer, I smiled the knowing smile of One Who Knows We Don’t Sing Christmas Songs in July. I’m wise like that, see. I get how things are done.
My sister? Not so much. She doesn’t realize that for many of us, the Christmas spirit gets packed away with the Nativity figurines.
Hindsight tells me that one of us deserved the other’s pity, and probably a slap on the head. I’m fairly sure it wasn’t her.
Mark Twain described it as “the most unintentionally humorous piece of literature ever written.” Tolkien and Lewis would take turns reading it and see how far they could get without laughing. Over the years, it has been regarded as one of the most notorious examples of bad writing ever published.
The book of which I speak? Irene Iddesleigh by Amanda McKittrick Ros.
You would be perfectly justified in asking how I managed to ingest such a uniquely horrid specimen; and I, for my part, would be perfectly honest in saying that I did it by accident. Mostly by accident, anyway. I was taken by surprise – waylaid by pretentious storytelling of the basest order, ambushed by prose so ostentatiously purple it puts the Japanese eggplant to shame.
Here’s how it happened. I was on the hunt for something funny to read, which led me to peruse several ‘best of’ lists on the internet (lists with titles like “25 Most Hilarious Books Ever Written” and so on). These lists featured an interesting jumble of classic and modern comedic fiction – some of which I’d read, some of which I’d only heard of, and some which was completely alien to me. Irene Iddesleigh was one of the latter. It was free on Kindle, so I picked it up. And somehow during this entire process, the phrase “unintentionally funny” never really clicked with me.
For the first thirty odd pages, I read under the impression that Ms. Ros was being over-the-top purely for comedic effect. Her prose was so flowery, her word-craft so abysmally turgid, I assumed it was deliberately so – a lampooning of poorly-written melodramas or some such rot.
As the story went on, a suspicion took root which – being watered with twenty more pages of this frightful stuff – quickly grew into a certainty: Ms. Ros was taking herself way too seriously. She wasn’t lampooning anything; she seemed instead to regard herself as the next Austen or Bronte.
The pretentiousness of this delusion was fully matched by her writing. A character’s blush of passion, for example, would call forth something like this:
“Speak! Irene! Wife! Woman! Do not sit in silence and allow the blood that now boils in my veins to ooze through cavities of unrestrained passion and trickle down to drench me with its crimson hue!”
(I’m fairly certain Ms. Ros should be the one blushing at this point.)
As Mark O’Connel puts it: “This stuff is, in lowish doses, quite entertaining, but if you read enough of it, its absurdity seems to spread outward to the whole of literature. Ros’ writing is not just bad, in other words; its badness is so potent that it seems to undermine the very idea of literature.”
Well, really. I don’t think there’s much more to be said.
My writer friends will appreciate this excellent piece from The Atlantic: Why Stephen King Spends ‘Months and Even Years’ Writing Opening Sentences. Whether you count yourself a King fan or not, you cannot deny that the man knows his craft. There’s good stuff to be learned here, and good stuff to be reminded of:
So an intriguing context is important, and so is style. But for me, a good opening sentence really begins with voice. You hear people talk about “voice” a lot, when I think they really just mean “style.” Voice is more than that. People come to books looking for something. But they don’t come for the story, or even for the characters. They certainly don’t come for the genre. I think readers come for the voice.
A novel’s voice is something like a singer’s – think of singers like Mick Jagger and Bob Dylan, who have no musical training but are instantly recognizable. When people pick up a Rolling Stones record, it’s because they want access to that distinctive quality. They know that voice, they love that voice, and something in them connects profoundly with it. Well, it’s the same way with books. Anyone who’s read a lot of John Sanford, for example, knows that wry, sarcastic amusing voice that’s his and his alone. Or Elmore Leonard – my god, his writing is like a fingerprint. You’d recognize him anywhere. An appealing voice achieves an intimate connection – a bond much stronger than the kind forged, intellectually, through crafted writing.