Language is a Virus (--William S. Burroughs)

Why is Cameron Dixon so cool? Well, for one thing, he gives me advice like this:

‘A thought struck me after reading Chapter 2 of “Fathom Five”; you’ve got an opportunity here to tie in the themes of the novel to the imagery of sound. The sirens lure their “victims” into their clutches through song, just as the ambulance sirens wail when they rush to the scene of the accident.

‘On page 10 Peter makes an explicit connection between (what could be) the imagery and the theme of the novel, claiming that Clarksbury was too quiet when he arrived because he was used to the noises of the city — he feels isolated and alone in a quiet area, but comfortable and relaxed amidst the noise of the city. When one is alone, there’s nobody else there to make noise; ergo, living in a community = noisy, and living in isolation = quiet.

‘If I were you I’d look for ways to explore this by describing things in terms of sounds whenever possible. On page 11, instead of “A car breezed past,” say it “hummed” or “whispered” or “buzzed” past. Describe Rosemary’s clothing as loud. That kind of thing. You may already be doing this. If not, then start. Schnell! Schnell!’

Cameron is exceptionally good at finding the key detail that’s missing from a story, that kicks the writing up several notches once it’s in place. This is one of them. I’d already resolved to put in as much water imagery as possible into the story, and although I remember Peter’s comments about Clarksbury being too quiet after living in Toronto, I hadn’t thought about tying the imagery of sound to the theme of isolation. He’s like a master mechanic who knows just what lugnut to tighten to make an engine hum.

From good writing to bad writing, I received this quote from an online writing group I belong to:

Thomas Mallon…left his tenured post as an English professor at least in part because he thought the language academia uses had reached a crisis point. As an example of how bad the crisis had become, he offers the following sentence from a book he was reviewing for Joseph Conrad Today:

‘“In these instances, a seemingly meaningful logical surface is subverted by the ontic vacancy of raw diversity established through a plurality of multiplicative inverses, to which the very idea of orderly and sequential monogenesis is indeed foreign.”

‘To which Mallon sensibly responded in his review, “I will make my point in a mere eight syllables: no one should write like this, ever.”’

I’m inclined to agree. Can anybody tell me what the quoted paragraph actually says?!


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