Monday, December 13, 2010

Parvum Opus 380: Postjudice

Dulce, utile, et decorum est pro patria scribere
Book Trailers
Something new (to me, anyway) in publishing: book trailers. Look it up on YouTube, on Book Trailers, on your favorite (still living) writer’s web site, on publishers’ web sites; or just do a general search. Good way to promote your book. A couple I’ve seen are very slick, like movie trailers, and expensive to produce. But you could produce your own. The simplest way would be to get a web cam, make a video of yourself talking about your work or reading from your book, and post it on YouTube. I might try it.
Literature and the Professions
Certain professions lend themselves to fiction, or rather, certain professionals are inclined to write fiction, particularly mysteries. Of course most writers start out with a day job, and most end up with the day job too; not many can make a living writing. But some day jobs are more likely to provide either material or an entire world-view on which to build a novel.
There’s practically a sub-genre of academic novels written by professors, instructors, lecturers (my favorite academic novel is Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis). Academics tend to be bitter, but they usually write well unless they get caught up in literary fashions like postmodernism. Amanda Cross was the pen name of Columbia professor Carolyn Heilbrun, whose academic mysteries were a bit too arch, sort of affectedly Nick and Nora, with politics. I was surprised to find that she killed herself for no good reason in 2003.
An article in the UK Guardian discusses the psychologist as novelist, though not in much detail. This is a likely pairing if you think of the novel form as being about character and character development, though you’re likely to get a somewhat narrow idea of what constitutes the human person.
Lawyers and policemen and doctors like to write novels, too. They have the plots and the drama, in addition to lots of observation of human behavior, and law people have ideas about good and evil as well as legal and illegal. Lawyer John Grisham, of course, is hugely popular, and his plots make good movies.
Priests, you would think, wouldn’t have enough free time to dabble in fiction, but Fr. Andrew Greeley is a popular novelist, and his web site calls him a sociologist too. I tried reading one of his books years ago, but couldn’t finish it; as much as I like crime novels, I thought his book was shallow and boring. He’s 82 now, and cracked his skull in a fall two years ago, so the prolific author isn’t writing anymore.
Journalists often are naturals. The late Tony Hillerman was a newspaperman whose clean style worked well with his Navajo police stories and Southwest landscapes.
Anne Stories
From Anne DaBee:
Forgive me for spouting another gem from my "school days", so to speak, this time re "can" and "may".
Student: Can I go to the bathroom, Mrs. D.?
Mrs. D.: I hope so.
Student, puzzled: Huh?
Mrs. D. explains, not for the first time, the difference between "can" and "may", and asks if the student would care to rephrase the question.
Student: NOW MAY I go to the bathroom?
Mission accomplished, at least for the moment.
And then there were the times when students asked to "borrow" a tissue from the box on my desk and received a "no" answer, followed by a brief definition of "borrow" and an explanation of the ick factor inherent in "borrowing" a tissue. Oh, well - I really tried to contribute to the literacy of all those decidedly average middle schoolers...
Here’s a story that will get Anne’s tinsel in a tangle, as someone seasonally said to me last week. Andrew Buck, a Brooklyn school principal, wrote a semi-literate letter to parents, full of errors and incoherencies, but most shockingly arguing (if his statements could be elevated to argument) that textbooks aren’t necessary. Obviously they weren’t vital to him, and yet he has a good job, in education, no less. I wasn’t able to find a transcript of his letter but if you click on his photo at the link above you’ll find pictures of segments of this atrocity, which begs the questions:
· How did he graduate? (Answer: Social promotion to promote self-esteem, of which he has way too much.)
· Why doesn’t he hire a good secretary to edit his letters? (Answer: He doesn’t know he needs one.)
· How did he get this job without at least understanding the value of books? How did he get to be principal of a school, let alone a charter school for art and philosophy? (Answer: He was hired by people who got social promotions and have lots of self-esteem, and perhaps he had a professional write his resume. And possibly it was the art department that had the hiring power. Surely philosophy teachers still have to read books.)
Buck’s philosophical proposition: You can’t learn about textbooks from textbooks. Following that logic, no one could ever learn to read in the first place.
Selections from Mike Sykes
Mike Sykes wrote:
On punctuating abbreviations:
One convention (hardly a rule) is that you don't need a stop if the abbreviation ends with the last letter of the full word. Another, rather more radical school of thought says you don't need a stop if understanding doesn't require it. Us Brits are just not as hide-bound with rules.*
By the same token, you don't get stops at the end of newspaper headlines, even when they're grammatical sentences.
By the way, how do you abbreviate "forecastle"? My dictionary on disk has "fo'c's'le" - I don't think one sees that very often; the OED online has "Also written fo'c'sle" as the only alternative; and HMS Victory has "foc'sle". Can any one of these three be regarded as the correct version? gives fo'c'sle as a spelling, and gives fok-sel as a pronunciation; fo’c’sle would be a reasonable approximation of that pronunciation though it does tend to make you expect three syllables; foc’sle would be better. Why a third apostrophe for the absent letter T would be omitted I couldn’t say; it’s hardly worse than having two apostrophes in one word. Do sailors ever pronounce the original word as spelled: forecastle? If you type fo’c’sle into Google, you get Wikipedia’s entry for forecastle.
How about bosun for boatswain (originally, boy or servant on a boat, not a lover on a boat)? It does very well without apostrophes. I think my dad was a bosun on the USS Intrepid in WWII.
*Who would have thought us Americans were hide-bound!
On may and might:
“Might I have the last doughnut?” However, that sounds to me more like a British usage.
It's an attempt to be (over?) polite. But you would be more likely to say "May I go now?"
On apostrophes and prepostrophes:
How about calling all of us who write and speak on apostrophes, “apostrophers”?
The verb "apostrophize" is already in the dictionary, "apostrophizer" would be a natural derivation.
One meaning of “to apostrophize” is to digress, i.e. to speak in apostrophes (L from Gr apostrophē, a turning away from the audience to address one person / apostrephein / apo-, from + strephein, to turn: see strophe).
Preposterous literally means “before after” (i.e. contrary). Someone who prepostrophizes would be turning two ways at once (i.e. absurd).
Pre- and Post-
The word “prejudice” produces a knee-jerk reaction: Prejudice is bad. We need another word to fill in a meaning gap here. I offer “postjudice”. This means opinion based on experience and knowledge. Prejudice can of course come from generalization about experience and/or information, and thus isn’t necessarily unreasonable. Forming an opinion after experience is the mark of a brain in action. “Don’t be judgmental” is the mark of laziness, usually uttered with witless dishonesty.
Me Being
Jeffrey Folks quoted Obama in “Me Being President”:
"The notion that somehow me saying maybe you should be taxed more like your secretary when you're pulling home a billion dollars... I don't think is me being extremist or me being antibusiness," Obama explained.
Many of us say things like “me being” instead of “my being”, but remember that “being” is a gerund here, a noun, and so should be preceded by the possessive pronoun. Perhaps Harvard doesn’t give remedial English classes as do so many universities.
(I would like to note here that 25%, say, of a billion dollars is way more than 25% of a secretary’s pay. But I apostrophize.)
Note the Odiogo link in Parvum Opus online at This allows you to listen to a podcast of each issue, or download it as an .mp3 file. Odiogo provides a digital voice reading. It’s a little weird and imperfect, but generally comprehensible.
Cute new baby clothes and blanket: “Fresh Pict”. New: stadium blanket. “STET Happens” mugs and coasters and flasks are popular with editors and writers.

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