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Showing posts from May, 2014

The Silmarillion, by J.R.R. Tolkien

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I tried to immerse myself in this tome of pseudo lore after reading The Lord of the Rings trilogy for the first time nearly thirty years ago. Fantasy fiction was my genre of choice back then. Still, I couldn't do it. Middle-earth's creation story, which kicks off the book, felt as dry as a Texas summer drought, and by chapter two my thoughts had wandered off to swimming holes and cold beers. I set the book aside for stories featuring plots and protagonists, intending to one day return to this unfinished, posthumous, literary geekfest when my constitution could endure the myriad cameos and daunting pronunciations of foreign place names.
Years elapsed. In the interim, I was exposed to the likes of Twain, Nabokov, Steinbeck, Greene, and Davies. Over time, my concerns shifted; I developed an appreciation for style. Craft superseded genre. Plot was reduced to its essential ingredient, like flour or stock, but no longer the dish's draw. In short, what happened in a story became …

Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brontë

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Books written in the elevated prose of 19th century English literature have a certain charm. If you can get past the tuberculosis, syphilis, dysentery, kissing (and marrying) cousins, the writing, with its somewhat stilted syntax, has a certain seductive quality. Its graceful grammar, even the vocabulary, appeals to me in ways I can't really define or defend.
Partially due to my age, partially due to my love of language, I have a tendency to sound like a stuffed shirt when I should don the prose equivalent of the casual pullover. I'm inclined to receive when I should get, speak instead of talk. In casual conversation, I still distinguish can (what is possible) from may (what is allowed). And don't get me started on will and shall. Incidentally, this might explain, in part anyway, why I love reading Wodehouse and watching British comedies. Or maybe it's the other way round; spoiled on the stirring elocution of poets, I dread the brute with the bullhorn.
For whatever reas…