Monday, June 29, 2009

An amusing interlude.

I asked the copy editors (Bill and Bob) about doing some editing, whereby I shall increase my facility with the incomprehensible style of AP, and Bob gave me a homework assignment: Twain's essay, Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses.

"This," said the copy editors, as dislike in temperament as Twain and - and - well, Natty Bumppo, "this is what to keep in mind as you edit."

It's an amusing little ditty, the essay is, but my favorite part is the end (I think Twain might approve). Twain compares Fenimore Cooper's feeling for words to an "ear for music," an excellent idea in its own right - why is it that we can say someone has a good ear, but a sense for what word is right and what word is not is so often dismissed and discounted as mere "style?"

(To clarify, Fenimore Cooper's "ear" is rather deaf, in Twain's estimation.)

That small plaint aside, poor Twain! Given that he wrote about Fenimore Cooper,

"Now I feel sure, deep down in my heart, that Cooper wrote about the poorest English that exists in our language, and that the English of "Deerslayer" is the very worst that even Cooper ever wrote."

...well, he must be spinning in his well-decayed grave if any broadcasts from current publishing reach him there.

He calls "Deerslayer" a "literary delirium tremens," and writes,

"A work of art? It has no invention; it has no order, system, sequence, or result; it has no lifelikeness, no thrill, no stir, no seeming of reality; its characters are confusedly drawn, and by their acts and words they prove that they are not the sort of people the author claims that they are; its humor is pathetic; its pathos is funny; its conversations are -- oh! indescribable; its love-scenes odious; its English a crime against the language."

If only I could read a newspaper edited by Twain.

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