April 23, 2006

"The yield of her legendary scrutiny informed by a worldliness more political than clitoral."

Do you trust a writer who writes like that to tell you why one writer is better than another?
Her spare precise locution rewards not spectatorship but collaboration: the reader's full discovery of the dread she leaves largely tacit.
It's not hard to see that Joan Didion is a better writer than Erica Jong, but that doesn't mean that trying to write like Didion and not Jong will make you a better writer.

12 comments:

Gundovald said...

...and the shame of it is that he is the author of a book on another great American writer, Mark Twain. And how different his style was from this author.

Gundovald said...

...and the shame of it is that he is the author of a book on another great American writer, Mark Twain. And how different his style was from this author.

Cousin Don said...

Is clitoral even a word?

Something coined about a Georgia O'Keefe painting, perhaps?!?

So would the antonym of clitoral be penilely, penisly, penisal, dickally, dickoral, or just penal?

No, wait the penultimate one has something to do with Bill and Monica and the last one is a prison term, right?

CB said...

Joan Didion? Erica Jong? What decade did I just wake up in?

Ann Althouse said...

CB: The year in which Joan Didion won the National Book Award.

Dave said...

Of course clitoral is a word. But I digress.

Methinks we should all write like Shakespeare.

reader_iam said...

... that doesn't mean that trying to write like Didion and not Jong will make you a better writer.

Amen--though it's not a bad idea to figure why one is better than the other and apply those insights in your own way.

I read Didion's "Year of Magical Thinking" a couple of months back and found it wonderful. In it, she makes direct references to Dunne's "taking apart" books to see how they work (in fact, if I recall correctly, he was involved in just such an analysis when he died). She also makes references to herself thinking that way.

In any case, I'd recommend this book in a heartbeat, assuming you like this sort of non-fiction (but written with the stylish touch of an accomplished fiction writer).

CB: I don't quite understand that. I mean, I get the association of Jong and Didion with the '70s, of course (having read both of them then).
But what? If you're not a young writer you're passe? Just curious, truly.

Ann Althouse said...

Sometimes I even read books by people who are dead! Bizarre, I know... not sure what I'm thinking there.

reader_iam said...

Heck, I've been dipping back into the books of Muriel Spark recently, and she just died last week, so I guess you could say I've been re-reading a book by a person while she was alive and while she see was dead.

I must really be off my rocker.

(Cr-e-a-k. Cr-e-a-k.)

Johnny Nucleo said...

I don't see why that's a bad line. We have only heard of Jong because she wrote a sex book.

Powers is right that Jong's talk about "the dictation" is dangerous. It can happen, sure. A certain blogger I know has the gift. But it's rare, like winning the lottery. And blogging is not what Jong is talking about.

Perhaps when writing about sex "the dictation" can happen. Jong did get the idea from Henry Miller. But we are more forgiving of sex writing. Does it turn us on? Then it's good.

Powers wrote a book on Mark Twain. Twain sculpted his work, word by word. There was no dictation. But there was no sex either. And blogs had not been invented.

Craig Ranapia said...

I'd like to err on the side of generosity, and assume this is a pretentious parody of Jong's cloacal prose. But I wouldn't bet the farm on it.

CB said...

reader_iam, Ann, (If you're still reading)

My comment above was a stupid, throwaway remark, based on the association of those two writers with the 70's--please disregard it.

Ann--put up a new post, please! I'm going through comment withdrawal here!