(fom) Tue 22 May 12 21:30
A main, if not the main, point he makes -- about something that had been bothering/puzzling me since I got my first and only and currently in my bookcase copy of S&W in 1959 -- is that so many of their rules (or whatever they are) are simply wrong. Yes, the word "linguistics" appears in the essay, I do realize that. And no, I don't think I misread the word "text." Maybe we just disagree! I've been waiting for someone to come along and say those things for decades, and this guy said them.
Mike Godwin (mnemonic) Tue 22 May 12 22:08
Oh, well, I certainly agree with Pullum and you that some of the Elements are wrong if we take them to be "rules" or even as descriptions of what works best. It seems strange to call E.B. White a "bumbler" though. As, you know, the genesis of THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE is a White memoir of Strunk in The New Yorker (which I don't recall having read), and a publisher found Strunk's original book and asked White to update it. (And the resulting book probably generated an astonishing income for White, even considered apart from his other sources of income.) Should White have consulted philologists and linguistics scholars in fulfilling a contract in which he was to base the project on Strunk? It's hard to me to see how he could have done so and honored the assignment, either in the late 1950s, when linguistics was really beginning to ferment, or in the post-Chomsky revisions, where those who like the book have certain expectations of it. I'm sure it was hard enough to update the book to the extent he did. (White calls only eight of the Elements "rules," but of course Pullum is correct that the book is widely mistaught as if every maxim and prescription in it amounted to a rule. I don't think that's White's fault, so it seems dumb to me to rant about White as a pernicious influence, as I believe Pullum does.) When I got more interested in advancing my own skills as a writer, I found Strunk & White inadequate. John Trimble's WRITING WITH STYLE is a much better book for a student learning how to write, I think, and if one favors certain kinds of prescriptivist references, I'd recommend H.W. Fowler (later editions) and Theodore Bernstein.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 23 May 12 05:26
While I appreciate the discussion of Strunk and White and writing style, it's topic drift and should perhaps be pursued elsehwere. (Perhaps it would be a fitting later discussion for Inkwell.) This discussion is specifically about Mark Dery's book, _I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts_. We're nearing the end of the discussion; Mark has promised a closing post today or tomorrow. Thanks to all who have participated in this lively exchange.
M. Dery (mark-dery) Wed 23 May 12 06:38
Many thanks, (jonl), for inviting me to Inkwell, and for your probing questions and incisive comments. Thanks, too, to all who offered thought-provoking responses to _Bad Thoughts_ or enlightened (and enlightening) questions about my work, most notably (tcn), (dlwilson), (dgault), (wickett), and, via pneumatic tube, Roy Christopher. Regards, M.D.
david gault (dgault) Wed 23 May 12 06:51
Thanks for a lively read Mark. In parting, please know I joined your team as soon as you commented on the HofC program at UC Santa Cruz. Man, they were my neighbors when I was an undergrad, what a noisy bunch!
M. Dery (mark-dery) Wed 23 May 12 07:25
Hilarious, David. Naturally, you have to break a few dorm lamps if you're busy demolishing The Hierarchical Dualisms That Structure Western Ontology!* Thanks for your smart, on-topic thoughts throughout, and best with your own work. As ever, M.D. *(Haraway, if memory serves. And it may not, at this age.)
Gail Williams (gail) Wed 23 May 12 08:06
Thanks for the visit, Mark. For those who are now even more curious about the book, here's the publisher's site: <http://upress.umn.edu/book-division/books/i-must-not-think-bad-thoughts>
M. Dery (mark-dery) Wed 23 May 12 08:28
Gracious of you to say, Gail. Thanks for that, and for posting the link. Here's the dedicated page on my site: http://markdery.com/?page_id=198 Geekier WELLbeings might be curious to know that BruceS wrote the preface, and Gibson and Warren Ellis recently rhapsodized about it on Twitter. If that's any recommendation. And in some quarters, it is. More reviews, and a link to the Gibson/Ellis comments, here: http://markdery.com/?p=334
Gail Williams (gail) Wed 23 May 12 08:53
Ah, now that's a book page!
. (wickett) Wed 23 May 12 09:24
Thank you, Mark. I appreciate a challenge and expanding my mind. Hold those mind-changing ambitions and perhaps Jamie Dimon will read and heed someday.
David Wilson (dlwilson) Wed 23 May 12 09:51
Thanks Mark. I left academia after attending an anthropology convention and listening to a lecture on the ethno-ichthyology of the Hong Kong boat people. I was more interested in experiencing new worlds without falling into too many pigeon-holes. The images from B-movies and popular music are more to my taste. Your strongest essays are the ones where you refer back to your own experiences growing up and learning to look at the world around you.
M. Dery (mark-dery) Wed 23 May 12 10:36
(wickett): And I appreciate your saying so. I haven't the faintest interest in changing Jamie Dimon's mind, or even in upsetting his digestion. If that condemns me to the purgatory of the Cult Author, well, I've made my not-terribly-troubled peace with that. We get the readers we deserve; I'd rather stake my claim to a niche market of overeducated overthinkers than command the devotion of the _Shades of Grey_ hordes. (Not that selling 10 million copies of a book wouldn't put steam in my slacks.)
M. Dery (mark-dery) Wed 23 May 12 10:39
(dlwilson): "Ethno-ichthyology of the Hong Kong boat people." Wasn't that an indie band in the '80s? No, that was Birdsongs of the Mesozoic. Anyway, thanks. I can't agree that the autobiographical essays are necessarily superior to the purely cultural-critical ones, but I'm pleased to hear something in the book repaid your time investment.
(fom) Wed 23 May 12 10:45
Be sure to check back here for a while in case there are more questions, etc.
M. Dery (mark-dery) Wed 23 May 12 10:54
(fom), dear, one *does* have to earn one's daily crust.
Ted Newcomb (tcn) Wed 23 May 12 11:12
Wonderful range and style of conversation (mark-dery) and like all good conversationalists you leave me wanting more. All the best with your book tour and future endeavors. A friend well-met.
Ted Newcomb (tcn) Wed 23 May 12 11:12
Probably should have made that WELL-met :)
Mike Godwin (mnemonic) Wed 23 May 12 17:40
Thanks, of course, for your engagement, Mark, and for all the valuable work you've done in changing the world, changing minds, and promoting superior cultural understanding. Where would we be without it?
M. Dery (mark-dery) Wed 23 May 12 21:51
(tcn): Your nuanced cast of mind and intellectual generosity are a bracing corrective to some of this topic's more loutish tub-thumpers. Thanks for your never less than stimulating, often inspiring comments and questions throughout.
Rob Myers (robmyers) Thu 24 May 12 04:33
I've now ordered the book...
Ted Newcomb (tcn) Thu 24 May 12 05:18
Aww, I'm verklempt. Looking forward to the next one.
Susan Sarandon, tractors, etc. (rocket) Thu 24 May 12 07:16
Lamest Inkwell guest ever?
Bryan Higgins (bryan) Thu 24 May 12 08:25
I found this unpleasant. Mr. Dery may regret his thin-skinned peevishness immortalized forever for Google to find.
David Wilson (dlwilson) Thu 24 May 12 09:19
Come on guys. He was way too much in love with his writing style and public persona. That got in the way of WELL norms and customs. You have to admit that it wasn't all his fault. If you'd read some of his essays you would find that he had some interesting ideas and he presented them in novel ways.
Bryan Higgins (bryan) Thu 24 May 12 10:11
The topic speaks for itself, I believe.
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