Tuesday, May 13, 2008

For Aleina and Jake

Is Jake secretly Harold Bloom?

Mind you, I don't agree with professor Bloom. But he seemed apropos to the whole debate.

31 comments:

susurrous aleina said...

I actually had to write a formal response to that exact article for Penton's class. It was intense.

Mark Tueting said...

Aleina,

Cut and paste your response here.

I'd love to read it.

Atomic Dead Head said...

Harold Bloom: The Larry White of the literary world.
I agree with Bloom on the basis of twenty-first century literature being complete crap, however, I think old Harry has missed the point somewhere in the torrent of his declension-palooza. Literature is, in fact, becoming simpler and, in many cases, less cerebral. However there is no malicious plot behind such, I would propose the true cause of such may simply be the advent of Jacksonian literacy. In centuries past, it was only the intellectual/cultural elite who were taught to read, hence it was only the intellectual/cultural elite who produced literature. In twentieth century America and Europe, we enjoy almost universal literacy, hence, what the unenlightened masses want, they will soon get. The point of my argument is thus: if you teach dumb people how to read, pretty soon they will be writing books of their own.
p.s. Bloom also seems to have disregarded the plethora of crappy literature which has pervaded the english language for hundreds of years (i.e. victorian serials, Varney The Vampire, Ethan From, etc.)

Feather Rocketship said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
susurrous aleina said...

Okay, Tueting, here it is. I'll apologize in advance for some of the lapses in formality which occurred because I was so pissed off while writing this response. Also, my postmodernism vs. modernism argument is not watertight, but I think it's a relevant point.


Dumbing down American readers: A response to the essay by Harold Bloom

In his vicious tirade against modern literature titled Dumbing down American readers, Harold Bloom makes several caustic accusations. Reacting to the National Book Foundation’s decision to honor Stephen King with its annual award for “distinguished contribution”, Bloom insults the accomplished author blisteringly: “He is an immensely inadequate writer on a sentence-by-sentence, paragraph-by-paragraph, book-by-book basis.” He went on to denounce J.K. Rowling’s spectacularly successful Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, calling it, amongst other things, “dreadful” and later “terrible”. He asserts, essentially, that there are only four good authors who are still writing and attacks the evolution of contemporary literature as being a hotbed of declension. What Bloom doesn’t realize is that…well…he’s just dead wrong.
In order to adequately respond to Bloom’s scalding assertion it is necessary to analyze his point of view. Being 73 at the time he wrote the essay (making him about 77 now), it is safe to say that Bloom is an old man. Now there’s nothing wrong with being old—it means he has that much more experience—but it also means he grew up in a time when Modernism was flourishing. Modernism is largely a reaction against romanticism. It is a movement that emphasizes the value of reason, and the search for knowledge. It is a movement rich in objective assertions, scientific reasoning, and enlightenment ideals. Today’s world, and its literature, is instead in the throes of Postmodernism. Being in part a reaction against the objectivism of Modernism, Postmodernism takes a position of subjectivism. It asserts that there is, ultimately, no way to know anything for certain—reality is different for each person. The point, you ask? Well, a world of Postmodernism would hold less value in literary fiction, fiction that conveys a deeper meaning or displays the truth of the human condition (Perrine, 52), than would the Modernist world of Harold Bloom’s younger years. Bloom’s bias is therefore against the influx of commercial fiction, fiction mainly intended to simply entertain (Perrine, 52), that this postmodern society laps up. No longer thirsting for that literary fiction, we are perfectly content with an exciting plot, sympathetic characters, and a happy ending. Bloom is appalled and disgusted. His fear is that intellectualism has disappeared completely. He might do better to put aside his elitist notions and accept that the evolution of literature is due, not to the deterioration of the minds of America’s readers, but instead to the changing appetite of the postmodern era.
But Bloom’s vehement denunciation of the writing of Stephen King is where he takes the ludicrous plunge off the deep end. Bloom’s belief is that Stephen King’s writing, because it does not “contribute to society” (a value of literary fiction, but not of commercial), is bad writing. The problem with his argument is, of course, that Stephen King is a brilliant writer. He superbly covers all the criteria of the best commercial writing. With captivating plot and excellent character development, King creates the most satisfying of novels. His ingenious use of foreshadowing and his colorful word choice earn him his place as one of the greatest writers of the present day. Later, when Bloom, bashes J.K. Rowling he makes a grave error as well. He may be right to claim that J.K. Rowling’s writing is not among the best, but it is her original and inventive plot and setting that makes her world-famous series so popular. It is furthermore unfair to limit an assessment of Rowling’s writing to her first novel. A full read-through of the Harry Potter series would reveal a more developed, better writing style with each subsequent installment. In fact, the meat of Bloom’s attack on Rowling seems to be based solely on the overuse of the phrase, “stretched his legs” when any character takes a walk. If Bloom is going to attack Rowling’s writing, he must argue his case with greater elaboration! Such as it stands, Bloom’s attack is poor and weak. It is likewise with his assault on Stephen King; he has presented no reasoning as to why King’s writing is bad. It just is, take his word for it.
Lastly, upon his haughty pedestal, Bloom trashes the works of myriad other writers. Praising the precious classics—Shakespeare, Wordsworth, Byron, et cetera—Bloom reviles the society that has forgotten them and “replaced” them with Hemans, Smith, Tighe, and Landon, claiming that the latter poets “just can’t write”, but never mind why. He lists Thomas Pynchon, Philip Roth, Cormac McCarthy and Don DeLillo as those Fantastic Four, the only authors currently writing who are praiseworthy. Describing McCarthy’s Blood Meridian to be “worthy of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick”, Bloom forgets (or ignores) that while Moby Dick was artistic in its conception, many of today’s readers would not agree that it was so in aesthetics. This critic’s attachment to the styles and works of past “classical” eras obscures and corrupts his view of writing today. Just because a work does not seek an artistic portrayal of a deeper truth does not mean it isn’t good writing. Get over yourself, Mr. Bloom.

Kommunists-are-bad Karl said...

Declension!!!! Declension!!!!!!!

Atomic Dead Head said...

In response to Krieder's response:
I couldn't help but notice that, while you have sufficiently brow-beaten Dr. Bloom on the basis of his not supporting his argument, you seem to have made the same folly yourself. While you insist that Stephen King is "A brilliant writer" who "creates the most satisfying of novels" via "captivating plot and excellent character development," You do not, in fact, support your claims with any evidence beyond the implied petition to take your word for it.
Though your intended message is adequately conveyed ("...He's just dead wrong!") it seems that you're tirade is lacking any tangible evidence which may persuade your reader of said fact (apart, of course, from the vehement insistence of an omniscient teenager).
While I do agree with you, that this is the age of commercial literature, you seem perfectly content to spend the majority of your literary exploits submerged in novels which are (to quote Hemingway) complete crap. You repeatedly state in your article that you prefer to muck around in the post-modernist drivel we Americans are so adept at turning out, and yet you cast yourself as quite the whiz in all things concerning the English language. Does it not bother you that auhtors such as Stephen King do not, in fact untilize our language with the aptitude achieved by most sixth-graders? Perhaps it is simply a matter of taste, but I, for one, prefer to read literature that is more than a cheap thrill ride. I would rather spend my time reading books with unique and intriguing characters, complex plots, words longer than three syllables, etc. than subject myself to the predictable scare-tactics and characters pirated from other, vastly more accomplished writers which your precious Stephen King employs to lieu of actual storytelling ability.

p.s. Flesch-Kincaid ranks Stephen King's works on a fifth grade reading level, Hemingway's are ranked as seventh grade material, and Steinbeck's are eighth.

Mark Tueting said...

Jake,

Decelensionpalooza. Heh. Jacksonian literacy. Heh

Aleina,

Good argument - I had never reflected on the (commerical) literary impact of postmodernism. You point seems solid on the surface and I want to believe, but my wee brain wants to provide counter-examples - the popular pulp fiction of Bloom's own lifetime (think Astounding and its kin - or Heinlein/Clark/Asimov if we want to be respectable), Tolkien (who explicitly rejected deeper meanings in his work - it was a tale and that was all) and more tellingly, the bard himself.

Bloom forgets that old Willy was primarily motivated by the desire to put butts in the Globe seats (or feet on the floor of the peanut gallery). Modern Americans seem to think that Shakespeare's old English represents highbrow literature because it is unfamiliar.

Nonsense.

Shakespeare was a fierce vernacularist and invented slang that is now refered to as "proper" English. I suspect that many of the "deeper meanings" discovered by English PhDs say more about America in 2008 than they do about Willy.

Gibson's Braveheart speech isn't analyzed for deeper meaning. It is cinematic pulp prefatory to the cool violence. But, heh heh, it is essentially Harry V's St. Crispian's speech with a admixture of Harry before LaFleur. Perhaps Shakespeare was just getting his folks in the mood for some good-old fashioned ultra-violence (catch that cinematic reference if you can).

Even the lower class soldiers Pistol and Nim are present in Shakespeare's Henry V to provide comic relief, utter vulgar asides, and dispense double entrendres. They are, my friends, the roots of Eddie Murphy's Donkey in Shrek.

Shakespeare was crap in his day.

I'd argue that King is our Shakespeare and one day your grandchildren will complain about being dragooned into reading "The Stand" by fusty old English teachers.

King's work will provide plenty of fodder for future PhD candidates who will unearth deeper meanings from his dark tales.

Speaking directly to Jake, I'll confess that I'm no King expert. I've probably read a couple dozen of his books - a mere fraction of his work. His characters feel real - he gives the key charecters disgusting little quirks that we recognize. We identify with his conflicted creations. A character that springs to mind is the waitress/girlfriends in Needful Things who knows what she is doing wrong, but just wants the athritis to relapse. I think his characterizations are spot on.

That said, I almost agree with Bloom on Potter. I read the first book when the Rowlings Craze began and I had to force myself to finish it. I thought the writing was very poor and the plot unimaginative. The only thing that kept me slogging (and later skimming) was the desire to keep abreast of yute culture. I'll take Aleina's word for it that Rowlings matured in later books, but I've no desire to repeat the experience.

Matt said...

Jake -
Aleina does in fact give reasons for her statement "Stephen King is a brilliant writer." even if she did not give specific examples. The only way I can think of to back her statements in the following quotation more than she does already, is to actually have the person speaking against her statements (you) read selected passages or even whole books by Stephen King. Other than that, just look at the rest of the quotation and you can see that Aleina did back up her statements to an extent:

"Stephen King is a brilliant writer. He superbly covers all the criteria of the best commercial writing. With captivating plot and excellent character development, King creates the most satisfying of novels. His ingenious use of foreshadowing and his colorful word choice earn him his place as one of the greatest writers of the present day."

Furthermore, in your counter argument, you say:
"I would rather spend my time reading books with unique and intriguing characters, complex plots, words longer than three syllables, etc. than subject myself to the predictable scare-tactics and characters pirated from other, vastly more accomplished writers which your precious Stephen King employs to lieu of actual storytelling ability."

I implore you to tell me, what is "storytelling ability" besides character development, good plots and word choice, and an imaginative setting? (all of which King includes in his novels). Another thing, do you expect me to believe that the "vastly more accomplished writers" that you speak of did not "pirate" any ideas from their literary idols? I cannot help but seriously doubt this to be the case. Though the language may not be flowery and saturated with obscure words, the writing King exhibits is not "bad" writing.
Maybe you have read Stephen King in the past and maybe you haven't but even if you have and were not impressed, many people have found his novels to be thoroughly enjoyable and absorbing. I have yet to read a novel in which I could be completely absorbed which was not written with skill.

susurrous aleina said...

Tueting - I know what you mean with Potter. The difference was, I started reading the books at a very young age when I was not nearly as aware literature-wise. You'll not hear me defending Rowling's writing in her first novel; as you stated, it's really not very good. But I will attest to her maturing as a writer over the latter 6 novels, as well as the plot's becoming much more exciting.

Jake - Maybe I didn't give specific examples to prove the merits of Stephen King's writing, but you also have yet to provide me with specific evidence for King being a "crappy writer". As Tueting pointed out, and gave an example for, King really does do an excellent job of developing his characters. Even Roland, who is quite a stoic, inexpressive character, King employs a show-don't-tell approach and shows you the type of person Roland is, underneath his gunslinger persona. It shows his anger toward injustice, his love for the boy who appears at the waystation (ironically named Jake), his uncomfortability with becoming attached to people, his temporary struggle with insanity...even Roland becomes a sympathetic character--one that people identify with and care about. As for your assertion that I make it obvious in my essay that I only read commercial fiction, that's not true. There is a great deal--a majority, in fact--of fiction that bridges the space separating commercial and literary fiction. I enjoy a novel with a deeper meaning, a novel you might have to think about, a novel with a powerful theme, just as much as Bloom. But for Bloom, literary is all there is, and for me, I'll choose to enjoy both. And as for not utilizing our language "with the aptitude achieving by most sixth-graders", I think even you know that that's your personal "ludicrous dive off the deep end". Hyperbole is not the best approach if you want to have a serious argument. And original characters? I have already had Matt and Tueting back me up on this, but I'll reiterate. King has "spot-on" characterization that successfully makes each character his or her own person. I can only encourage you to give King's best novels a read. I honestly think you'd change your mind. Furthermore, "words with more than three syllables"? Oh, come on! Didn't I already cite King's "colorful word choice" as one of his strong attributes? I'll point out that words don't have to be longer than three syllables to keep from being bland, but for your sake, I'll give you these examples: infinitesimal, spuriously, contemptuous, cotillion, dissolution, fripperies, interloper, transmogrified, vestibule, capacious (sorry, that one's only 3 syllables), volition (sorry, that one too), paroxysm, vacillated...I'll stop there. And, apart from all that, I'd go on to point out King's excellent command of many literary techniques. He can leave you laughing disbelievingly with his subtle ironies or leave you itching to know whether or not something you noticed will resurface later. He uses the great storyteller's tool of making highly tangible connections in his setting to things in the real world so that his readers aren't searching for a more colorful setting--they understand the nature of King's worlds, situations, characters. King can describe every-day social phenomena uncannily well, allowing for a greater connection with the world he has placed his story in. King will occasionally use similes or metaphors that are strikingly accurate and enhance the imagery of a certain section in his novel, while avoiding any overuse of similes that can leave prose sounding awkward. King uses specific nouns, strong and accurate verbs, limits his use of adverbs (but when he does use them, they are also specific and effective). Put it all together and it can only support my opinion that King uses efficient, effective, and beautiful language.

Oh, and, Tueting, I acknowledge the flaws in my postmodernism/modernism argument. Like I said, I think it's still a valid point, even though it's not a universal explanation.

susurrous aleina said...

P.S. Sorry for the typos.

Atomic Dead Head said...

Matt: I appreciate your input... however you seem to have misinterpreted my meaning. When I accused Krieder of failing to support her argument I simply meant that she did not present any evidence which would compel me to rethink my standing on this subject. Allow me to demonstrate:

"Kirk Moyers is a brilliant writer. He superbly covers all the criteria of the best commercial writing. With captivating plot and excellent character development, Moyers creates the most satisfying of novels. His ingenious use of foreshadowing and his colorful word choice earn him his place as one of the greatest writers of the present day."

According to your logic, I have just proved, beyond a doubt, that Mr. Moyers is one of the greatest writers on earth.
Furthermore, quoting actual excerpts from King's work would be a good idea if someone were trying to convince their peers of said author's supposed brilliancy.

I would like to set the record straight on this issue before we resume the fire-fight: I do not dispute the popularity or selling power of Stephen King, I merely believe that his work is overrated. I have no personal beef with King or his work (He seems like he'd be a fun guy to hang out with) I am just tired of my supposedly intellectual compatriots idolizing King as some pinnacle of modern literature when his work is not even close to the brilliance of his predecessors.

susurrous aleina said...

Jake, the reason I haven't typed out actual excerpts for you here is because that would be illegal without personally asking King if I could do it. I can only recommend that you read more for yourself.

I can understand that perhaps, from what you have read of King (what have you read, by the way?), you got the impression that King is overrated. But he has written some great novels that have impressed me immensely and reveal the extent of his abilities as a writer. What I've read has been enough to give me the impression that King truly is a great writer and deserves, at the least, people's respect.

Matt said...

Jake, you demonstrate nothing by taking my sound logic and taking it out of context to show that it is faulty. I also said that this was the most one could do without actually reading or citing excerpts from his books themselves which, as Aleina has pointed out, is illegal. I see no relavence to the topic in your rebuttal.

Mark Tueting said...

Aleina,

Quoting for the purpose of criticism or education is perfectly illegal. As long as you do not quote more than one chapter at a time and do not make a profit, you are safe under copyright rules.

I can't repost the Washington Post in its entirety, but I can reprint an article for educational purposes under the "fair use exception" - which is why I always preface each pasted article with "educational purposes only" - it is a coded message to anyone who wants to object that I know the court case so they shouldn't waste their time.

Quote away.

susurrous aleina said...

Tueting - Oh, okay. So I'll try to find a short passage I find particularly well-written and post it here then.

Mark Tueting said...

My previous first sentence should have "legal," not "illegal."

susurrous aleina said...

Okay, I took the first passage I flipped to that I remember particularly enjoying reading. It's totally out of context of course, since it's well into the novel, so there may be parts that don't make sense. It's even better in the context of the entire series, because there's a weighty significance to several of the lines that you couldn't get if you hadn't read the books. Sorry for that. But anyway, here it is.
The following excerpt is Chapter 18 from Book II of Stephen King's "The Waste Lands" and has been printed below for educational purposes only.



When he came back to himself, he was at first only aware that a great deal of time had passed and his head hurt like hell.

What happened? Was I mugged?

He rolled over and sat up. Another blast of pain went through his head. He raised a hand to his left temple, and his fingers came away sticky with blood. He looked down and saw a brick poking out of the weeds. Its rounded corner was too red.

If it had been sharp, I'd probably be dead or in a coma.

He looked at his wrist and was surprised to find he was still wearing his watch. It was a Seiko, not terribly expensive, but in this city you didn't snooze in vacant lots without losing your stuff. Expensive or not, someone would be more than happy to relieve you of it. This time he had been lucky, it seemed.

It was quarter past four in the afternoon. He had been lying here, dead to the world, for at least five hours. His father probably had the cops out looking for him by now, but that didn't seem to matter much. It seemed to Jake that he had walked out of Piper School about a thousand years ago.

Jake walked half the distance to the fence between the vacant lot and the Second Avenue sidewalk, then stopped.

What exactly had happened to him?

Little by little, the memories came back. Hopping the fence. Slipping and twisting his ankle. He reached down, touched it, and winced. Yes--that much had happened, all right. Then what?

Something magical.

He groped for that something like an old man groping his way across a shadowy room. Everything had been full of its own light. Everything--even the empty wrappers and discarded beer-bottles. There had been voices--they had been singing and telling thousands of overlapping stories.

"And faces," he muttered. This memory made him look around apprehensively. He saw no faces. The piles of bricks were just piles of bricks, and the tangles of weeds were just tangles of weeds. There were no faces, but--

--but they were here. It wasn't your imagination.

He believed that. He couldn't capture the essence of the memory, it's quality of beauty and transcendence, but it seemed perfectly real. It was just that his memory of those moments before he had passed out seemed like photographs taken on the best day of your life. You can remember what that day was like--sort of, anyway--but the pictures are flat and almost powerless.

Jake looked around the desolate lot, now filling up with the violet shadows of late afternoon, and thought: I want you back. God, I want you back the way you were.

Then he saw the rose, growing in its clump of purple grass, very close to the place where he had fallen. His heart leaped into his throat. Jake blundered back toward it, unmindful of the beats of pain each step sent up from his ankle. He dropped to his knees in front of it like a worshipper at an altar. He leaned forward, eyes wide.

It's just a rose. Just a rose after all. And the grass--

The grass wasn't purple after all, he saw. There were splatters of purple on the blades, yes, but the color beneath was a perfectly normal green. He looked a little further and saw splashes of blue on another clump of weeds. To his right, a straggling burdock bush bore traces of both red and yellow. And beyond the burdocks was a little pile of discarded paint-cans. Glidden Spread Satin, the labels said.

That's all it was. Just splatters of paint. Only with your head all messed up the way it was, you thought you were seeing--

That was bullshit.

He knew what he had seen then, and what he was seeing now. "Camouflage," he whispered. "It was right here. Everything was. And...it still is."

Now that his head was clearing, he could again feel the steady, harmonic power that this place held. The choir was still here, its voice just as musical, although now dim and distant. He looked at a pule of bricks and old broken chunks of plaster and saw a barely discernible face hiding within it. It was the face of a woman with a scar on her forehead.

"Allie?" Jake murmured. "Isn't your name Allie?"

There was no answer. The face was gone. He was only looking at an unlovely pile of bricks and plaster again.

He looked back at the rose. It was, he saw, not the dark red that lives at the heart of a blazing furnace, but a dusty, mottled pink. It was very beautiful, but not perfect. Some of the petals had curled back; the outer edges of these were brown and dead. It wasn't the sort of cultivated flower he'd seen in florists' shops; he supposed it was a wild rose.

"You're very beautiful," he said, and once more stretched his hand out to touch it.

Although there was no breeze, the rose nodded toward him. For just a moment the pads of his fingers touched its surface, smooth and velvety and marvelously alive, and all around him the voice of the choir seemed to swell.

"Are you sick, rose?"

There was no answer, of course. When his fingers left the faded pink bowl of the flower, it nodded back to its original position, growing out of the paint-splattered weeds in its quiet, forgotten splendor.

Do roses bloom at this time of year? Jake wondered. Wild ones? Why would a wild rose grow in a vacant lot, anyway? And if there's one, how come there aren't more?"

He remained on his hands and knees a little longer, then realized he could stay here looking at the rose for the rest of the afternoon (or maybe the rest of his life) and not come any closer to solving its mystery. He had seen it plain for a moment, as he had seen everything else in this forgotten, trash-littered corner of the city; he had seen it with its mask off and its camouflage tossed aside. He wanted to see that again, but wanting would not make it so.

It was time to go home.

He saw the two books he'd bought at The Manhattan Restaurant of the Mind lying nearby. As he picked them up, a bright silver object slipped from the pages of Charlie the Choo-Choo and fell into a scruffy patch of weeds. Jake bent, favoring his hurt ankle, and picked it up. As he did so, the choir seemed to sigh and swell, then fell back to its almost inaudible hum.

"So that part was real, too," he murmured. He ran the ball of his thumb over the blunt protruding points of the key and into those primitive V-shaped notches. He sent it skating over the mild s-curves at the end of the third notch. Then he tucked it deep into the right front pocket of his pants and began to limp back toward the fence.

He had reached it and was preparing to scramble over the top when a terrible thought suddenly seized his mind.

The rose! What if somebody comes in here and picks it?

A little moan of horror escaped him. He turned back and after a moment his eyes picked it out, although it was deep in the shadow of a neighboring building now--a tiny pink shape in the dimness, vulnerable, beautiful, and alone.

I can't leave it--I have to guard it!

But a voice spoke in his mind, a voice that was surely that of the man at the waystation in that strange other life. No one will pick it. Nor will any vandal crush it beneath his heel because his dull eyes cannot abide the sight of its beauty. That is not the danger. It can protect itself from such things as those.

A sense of deep relief swept through Jake.

Can I come here again and look at it? he asked the phantom voice. When I'm low, or if the voices come back and start their argument again? Can I come back and look at it and have some peace?

The voice did not answer, and after a few moments of listening, Jake decided it was gone. He tucked Charlie the Choo-Choo and Riddle-De-Dum! into the waistband of his pants--which, he saw, were streaked with dirt and dotted with clinging burdocks--and then grabbed the board fence. He boosted himself up, swung over the top, and dropped onto the sidewalk of Second Avenue again, being careful to land on his good foot.

Traffic on the Avenue--both pedestrian and vehicular--was much heavier now as people made their way home for the night. A few passersby looked at the dirty boy in the torn blazer and untucked, flapping shirt as he jumped awkwardly down from the fence, but not many. New Yorkers are used to the sight of people doing peculiar things.

He stood there a moment, feeling a sense of loss and realizing something else, as well--the arguing voices were still absent. That, at least, was something.

He glanced at the board fence; and the verse of spray-painted doggerel seemed to leap out at him, perhaps because the paint was the same color as the rose.

"See the TURTLE of enormous girth" Jake muttered. "On his shell he holds the earth." He shivered. "What a day! Boy!"

He turned and began to limp slowly in the direction of his house.



P.S. Sorry if there are any typos; they would be only my fault.

Atomic Dead Head said...

This guy writes like he's nine years old. He affixes every noun with "the" as a prefix (THE rose, THE lot, THE paint-cans, THE camoflouge, THE lack of literary acumen). I must give King props for his use of a disembodied "phantom voice" to conveniently bypass those tiresome plot points and developments of character.

Here's a quick breakdown of the passage.

Total number of words: 1,559
Words longer than three syllables: 4

Mark Tueting said...

Polysyllabic composition is indicative of undeniable literary superiority?

susurrous aleina said...

Thank you, Tueting.
Jake, good writers don't think I didn't use enough words over three syllables in this chapter. Let me go back and fix it. No. They look at the effectiveness with which the section has been written. They make sure their words are not boring, but they do not search for obscure polysyllabic words to employ at every opportunity they get. Good writers use effective language that people will understand. Talk to Nipe if you don't agree with me.

As for your attack of the overuse of the article "the", you're just desperate for things to criticize. "The" is one of the most frequently used words in the English language. Furthermore, in those examples you noted, they make complete sense. The rose is immensely important to the book itself; therefore it is not 'a rose', it's 'the rose'. Everything in this passage has been described in the previous chapter, except the paint cans, and therefore is referred to as the [noun] since it is the same thing as before. The same lot. And what would you rather King did? Use alternative articles that would make the passage sound more awkward and make less sense, just for the sake of providing article diversity? No, Jake. The use of the word "the" is a poor reason to criticize this passage as its use does not make the passage worse for the read.

And the phantom voice refers to Roland who needs no character development at this time since the reader is already quite familiar with his character. Like I said, it's harder for you since you're reading it out of context, and I apologize for that.

Matt(ish) said...

Personally, I enjoyed reading this passage and was drawn in to the story even without the background information. I really enjoyed the variation in sentence structure as well as the flow of the passage, though the words may not have lots of syllables, there are some words included in this passage that one would not hear in a conversation with a nine year old. As for the phantom voice, even without the character development that we miss out on by reading this passage out of context, I find the "phantom voice" to be an effective means of showing how the character is reacting without using "he thought to himself" etc. which I find to be quite tiresome when overused. I don't know if I could determine that he is one of the best writers alive by reading just this passage, but it does show me that he is quite good at what he does.

Atomic Dead Head said...

It is not my opinion that using long words is necessarily indicative of literary prowess, however I do believe that King could stand to expand his vocabulary. Far be it from me to criticize your near infinite wisdom, but how do you know how a "good writer" thinks anyway?

susurrous aleina said...

I have been taught, I have read books on writing, and I have discovered for myself over the years.

Atomic Dead Head said...

You seem to have a pretty high opinion of yourself as a writer despite your vehement defense of a clearly inferior author.

susurrous aleina said...

Yes, Jake, I believe that, for my age, I write rather well.

Is that what you were trying to get me to admit?

I'm not sure how that helps your argument really.

Well done, though; it seems you've succeeded in shifting your attack from King to me.

Atomic Dead Head said...

Speaking of my attack on King. From your insistence that Stevey is such a wondeful writer, I am inclined to hypothesize that you would agree that Flo Rida is a brilliant and intruiging songwriter. Lemme s'plain:

Like King, Rida is a child of post-modernism, his music is not intended to change the world or carry some deeper meaning, in fact he is a master of capturing unforgettable characters in a few, plainspoken verses. His widespread popularity proves wihhout a doubt that he is, in fact, a brilliant author (how could he not be if so many people listen to his music?). All those declensionist cheese-heads who dislike Flo's rhymes simply do not understand the younger generation. Sometimes we just don't want to hear Bob Dylan moaning about being subterranean and/or homesick, we just want to slap on a sic beat with some phat base and get low (low, low, low, low, low, low, low). Flo is a master of characterization (i.e. I know exactly what his shawty is wearing on at least two seperate occasions) and he gives his subjects intriguing idiosyncrasies (such as the propensity to hit the flo') that perfectly capture the essence of his ultra-realist settings. This is the age of commercial music, that is music listened to as pure entertainment as opposed to those tedious "smile on your brother" songs of previous decades, and Flo is the master of the trippy hook and the crunk synth. there is no doubt in my mind that (in the spirit of your classifying King as an equal to Poe and other, more verbose writers) we should honor Flo Rida with at least three or four grammies, and include him in our annals of musical mastery (somewhere between the Lou Reed and Tom Petty sounds about right).

Matt said...

Once again, though you make a good point that widespread popularity does not always mean great skill, I do not agree that the comparison you make is accurate or relevant. In music one does not look for the same characterization nor even what the lyrics say or mean in many instances unlike literature. Also, the genre should be taken into account. Fantasy readers seek to be drawn into an interesting world of the author's creating. The best fantasy writer is the one who achieves this most fully. King draws the reader into his stories, giving them a full understanding of the character's situation as well as his/her surroundings and the expectations of his/her society. This is not the work of an extensive vocabulary or flowery writing styles (though they are appropriate in some cases), it is the work of artfully using language that all will understand to create a story which the reader can experience and enjoy seamlessly. Maybe this style is not what you love but regardless, King is a master at it.

Atomic Dead Head said...

Matt: I get what your saying, King is a master of drawing his audience into his world. I just think his writing style comes off as juvenile.

Matt(ish) said...

Jake, I can understand why you might find King's writing to seem juvenile. He writes in a very straightforward manner with somewhat repetitive-feeling sentences, but I think that this is part of what makes him a brilliant author. As I said, he writes in a way that any young adult could understand well enough to read through without stumbling. But, to each his own, I think I've said all that I have to say on this topic as of right now.

maddiecake said...

There were so many comments under this posts I rationalized that it must be 'participation.' Haha, I liked reading this.