June 8, 2017

What sets great writers apart from the pack is they don't write like this.

"What sets great writers apart from the pack is their ability to connect with readers on a visceral level. We feel their work in our brains and in our guts, in the blood coursing in our veins and the adrenaline swelling our necks, in the way our hearts contract with pain or swell with joy as we read."

Yeesh. Is that bad. From the twee "coursing" to the unwitting repetition of "swell," it's laughably bad.

That's "The Rambling Glory of Bob Dylan's Nobel Speech" by Alexandra Schwartz in The New Yorker. Schwartz won the National Book Critics Circle’s Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing for 2014. The hell.

ADDED: Does adrenaline swell your neck? I Googled:



I'd rather do my reading without the swollen neck.

AND: In David Sedaris's "Diaries," there's an entry from 1997 where he's publishing something in The New Yorker and he notices "four repetitions of the phrase 'we’re hoping.'" He takes the initiative to point this out to the editor, who says, “Man, you’re like a self-cleaning oven!”

PLUS: Here's my write-up of the Dylan speech.

37 comments:

Comanche Voter said...

Well at least she didn't start out with "It was a dark and stormy night". So there is that.

Virtually Unknown said...

I really liked Dylan's speech too, at least the spoken version of it, but oy vey!

Laslo Spatula said...

"... in the way our hearts contract with pain or swell with joy as we read."

It's not usually my heart that Swells With Joy.

I am Laslo.

Bob Ellison said...

It might have been witting.

robother said...

"You've either got amoebic dysentery or you've been reading too much Faulkner."

Virtually Unknown said...

"You've either got amoebic dysentery or you've been reading too much Faulkner."

One summer vacation I read Faulkner novels one after the other in a hammock in the back yard. Talk about weird dreams!

OK, you sold me on Diaries Althouse.

EDH said...

"Yeesh."

Dave from Minnesota said...

AA, here is a story that the internets should love. Charlotte NC gay pride group is denying service to a gay pro-Trump group. Not letting the participate in their parade. They said:

"Charlotte Pride reserves the right to decline participation at our events to groups or organizations which do not reflect the mission, vision and values of our organization, as is acknowledged in our parade rules and regulations by all groups at the time of their parade application."

Yeah, they are being sued. I can't wait to see how this plays out.

By the way.....The Donald loves the gays. He was for homosexual marriage long before Hillary or Obama were.

Of course at one time blacks weren't allowed to march in parades in NC, so I guess being a Republican in NC today is just like being black in NC 60 years ago.

Dave from Minnesota said...

Virt....I may be going to Mississippi this fall, so am planning on reading a Faulkner tome or two before hand to get me warmed up for a trip to the Magnolia state.

Michael K said...

Charlotte NC hasn't been this mad at Republicans since we freed their slaves.

tcrosse said...

"... in the way our hearts contract with pain or swell with joy as we read."

Pace Laslo, it's the sphincter that contracts with pain.

Dave from Minnesota said...

Michael, from reading the Charlotte News-Observer and things coming out of UNC, it seems things haven't changed much in Charlotte in the past 70 years, except they redirected their hatred from being anti-Black to being anti-Republican/conservative.

A few months ago, a UNC professor had a column in the News-Observer explaining why there are virtually no conservatives on the teaching staff there.....He said conservatives are to stupid and are not fit to teach college. Read the whole column, but change the word "conservative" to "Negro" and you'll how little has changed there in the past few decades.

Titus said...

Sounds like my hog when I am ready to blow.

mockturtle said...

"The Rambling Glory..." Good grief. How can glory ramble? This woman won some kind of writing award? It's like so many other 'awards' given today--including Dylan's. The competition must be very poor, indeed.

William said...

Richard Rodgers and Woody Guthrie were contemporaries. So far as I know, Rodgers was somewhat colorless. He screwed a few chorus girls, but his life was not marked with any great scandals or tragedies. Woody Guthrie had a guitar that said "This machine kills fascists". His life was clotted with scandals, but Woody is some kind of legend and is fondly remembered........I can. offhand, only think of two or three Woody Guthrie songs, although he has that one which is the left wing national anthem. Richard Rodgers, on the other hand, has written dozens of songs that are now part of America's soundtrack. Some of his songs are heavy on the treacle and schmaltz, but that's more the fault of his librettist. Rodgers was arguably the greatest composer of popular music in the twentieth century, but who remembers him as a person.....I wonder what part of Dylan is talent and what part is legend.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Titus said...

Sounds like my hog when I am ready to blow.

As they say about the dancing bear, the impressive thing is not how well your hog writes, but that it writes at all.

traditionalguy said...

The sweet idiot cannot comprehend that Dylan was speaking about a revelation that suddenly came to him that he then expressed as best he could using the Cultural tools he received from western cannon: from a Catholic Spanish master, and a Protestant American master and the Greek Poet , who first received it and expressed it in spoken/sung Greek tradition.

She is well on her way to be replaced by a computer AI droid.

M Trumble said...

Words are the currency of thought. Great writers make it appear effortless, because, for a while, one is able to slip into what John Gardner (and others) called "the fictive dream" and forget that one is reading.

I think the same is true of great songs. They sweep you up and carry you off.

Virtually Unknown said...

I think the dream about "jonquil thunder" was the weirdest.

mockturtle said...

William ponders: I wonder what part of Dylan is talent and what part is legend.

That's easy: 2% and 98%.

exiledonmainstreet said...

Since we are speaking of literary matters, this news from PowerLine really did make me laugh out loud:

"While we await the threatened—and as yet untitled—memoir of Hillary Clinton, we can delight in a new book also about the inner reaches of Herself, coming in August: Strong for a Moment Like This: The Daily Devotions of Hillary Rodham Clinton. It’s 416 pages!"

I am so looking forward to St. Hillary's spiritual insights.

traditionalguy said...

Amazingly, although at the simplest level, Dylan's songs are still written over the heads of most people in the audience.

exiledonmainstreet said...

"Strong for a Moment Like This: The Daily Devotions of Hillary Rodham Clinton."

Hillary has certainly had her moments.

How to stay strong when you find out your husband has been using an WH intern as a humidor for his cigars.

How to stay strong even as your knees buckle and your aides have to pick you up and toss you into the back seat of the limo.

How to stay strong when your vodka soaked brain finally registers that Orange Donald is going to be president and you aren't.

Jack Tors said...

Orwell, Strunk and White couldn't be reached for comment...

Owen said...

Michael K: "Charlotte NC hasn't been this mad at Republicans since we freed their slaves."

Such a good line!

Virtually Unknown said...

Walt Whitman could have written something like that, but he would have led you there slowly by the hand until you trusted him, before unleashing it, kind of like Laslo might talk you into a rid in his van.

tcrosse said...

I wonder if the people who are writing Hillary's memoir are in contact with the people who are writing Obama's, just to get their story straight. Or maybe it's all the same people.

Bill said...

in the blood coursing in our veins and the adrenaline swelling our necks, in the way our hearts contract with pain or swell with joy

Sounds like a standard reaction to porn, though the 'swelling' certainly isn't limited to the neck.

Marc Puckett said...

And that book of 'Mrs Clinton's devotions' was written during the campaign by her own chaplains of her political household: haven't seen anything so amusing all week. Next, I want to see an edition of the daily emails to Alexander VI Borgia from his chaplains, or to Fidel Castro from Ernesto Guevaro. Gosh.

urbane legend said...

"jonquil thunder"

Porn star name, if I were guessing. Just the name, Virtually Unknown, not a comment on your dreams.

Leslie Graves said...

I can't talk right now because my neck is so swollen with adrenaline.

Daniel Jackson said...

The happy idiot; didn't know that Hemingway used both swollen neck and swollen throat for erect penis.

I mean, that is American Lit 101

TWW said...

Bad writers also connect with readers on a visceral level.

TML said...

I'd like to discuss just the very first sentence. Hideous. Why not stop at "What sets great writer apart is..."? adding "from the pack" is so jarring and horrible, it makes my teeth ache. It almost feels like a mixed metaphor it's so horrible.

Wouldn't it be what puts great writers at the front of the pack?

The entire excerpt is embarrassing and weak.

rcocean said...

Literature critics used to well known and influential. Edmund Wilson comes to mind. Now, in the 21st century when people are reading less and less "real" literature, and the rise of the internet book reviews, the elite critics have become almost unknown.

I notice my local library has drastically reduced its Literature criticism section. Since fewer and fewer people are reading say Moby Dick or Shakespeare, it means almost no one is checking out books analyzing and explaining Moby Dick or Shakespeare.

The same thing is true of movie criticism. The library still has books from the 70s, 80s,90s, (Kael and Ebert for example). There's no book of movie criticism from 2001 onward. Per my local librarian, no one cares.

Virtually Unknown said...

Porn star name, if I were guessing.

Maybe that's where Faulkner got it. Faulkner, as portrayed in Barton Fink sure would have gotten it there.

Luke Lea said...

The days of Shawn are dead and gone . . .