Tuesday, March 31, 2009

On D.G. Myers on J.V. Cunnigham + Commonplaces

I've been blog-stalking A Commonplace Blog for a couple of months now. Its author, D.G. Myers, - 'a critic and literary historian at Texas A&M University' -never fails to provide stimulating commentary on all things *literary* - and the inspiration I find there is invaluable, as evidenced by my almost physical response to the post found HERE; below is the comment I left:

You've given me enough fuel to last a LONG while. Thank You! Pithy, poignant - near heroic couplets in substance and brevity.

"The assumption of translation is that things can be said in several ways and that the ways can be compared." <-- I've spent the last week or so vacillating between the English and French versions of Bouillier's The Mystery Guest and am miserable (it's all documented on my blog).... this is timely.

"The purpose of the plain style is to persuade, of the pretty style to charm, of the grand style to move or bend."
<-- I'm drawn to dandyism in literature, so it's definitely the charming, pretty style for me.

"An accumulation of bad habits marks the colloquial style."
& "In modern literature we witness a widespread need for anti-formality which often takes the form of vandalism. It goes by the rubric Make It New." <-- These are the reasons I've disliked many of the books I've recently read.

"When style is overpowering it takes us over. We think we have said what we have heard."
<-- Montaigne is the master of this plain, persuasive style. You'd think you'd come up with some of the self-realizations he documented. And these notes of yours, of Cunningham's, I find myself nodding in agreement and gasping in epiphany as I read them.

"How difficult it is to write in praise!"
<-- I started my own commonplace blog last week (this blog has been my inspiration) and already I feel I'm being too negative, finding fault with everything, being a literary *hater* (lol) - but it's much easier for me to identify and criticize the source of my dissatisfaction in what I read... which is strange because there's so much pleasure to be had in a book. What a teacher Cunningham must have been!

It may seem like I slathered the praise on a bit too thickly, but my appreciation is genuine. I loved being a student, learning from amazing and insightful people... and not being in an academic setting at 22, and for over a year, hurts more than I am comfortable admitting. I plan to be back in school by next year, and in the mean time this blog has been a source of motivation.

"Commonplace book
orig. A book in which ‘commonplaces’ or passages important for reference were collected, usually under general heads; hence, a book in which one records passages or matters to be especially remembered or referred to, with or without arrangement.
1578 COOPER Thesaurus A studious yong man ... may gather to himselfe good furniture both of words and approved phrases ... and to make to his use as it were a common place booke. 1642 FULLER Holy & Prof. St. A Common-place-book contains many notions in garrison, whence the owner may draw out an army into the field.


Immediately after reading the above for the first time, I knew I'd found a place on the internet to relax and stay a while. I'd been amassing 'commonplace books' for years without knowing what to call them. Now, with a commonplace blog of my own, I feel I am actively doing my part to stay sharp (and hopefully grow sharper by the day!) in preparation for my return to school and for my life as a reader and writer.

That's all for now. More on The Mystery Guest & Death in Venice coming up.