Politics, Technology, and Language

If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought — George Orwell

Archive for the ‘Lang’ Category

Books about writing—a baker’s dozen

Posted by metaphorical on 5 November 2010

I’m teaching creative writing this term at The College of New Rochelle. It’s a monster 6-credit course, 18 sessions, 4 hours each. And I’m loving it. I’m an experienced enough teacher to know, even though this is my first time for creative writing, that this is a once-in-a-lifetime great group of students. But that aside, the course is helping me put together a whole bunch of thoughts about writing, some of which have appeared on this blog, in a more coherent (dare I say, systematic?) way.

So, naturally, in my obsessive way, I’ve been angling to teach more creative writing, and this week learned the fruits of those labors. Next term I’ll be teaching Creative Writing 101, a 6-week course at Gotham Writer’s Workshop, and Creative Writing 220 at The College of New Rochelle, a 3-credit scaled-down version of the class I’m currently giving.

In anticipation of the two new classes, I’ve put together a short (at least, as short as possible!) list of books about writing. This is about as far from being a definitive list as Sarah Palin is from the presidency, but I can certify this as a list of excellent books that I’ve found exceptionally helpful.

One disclaimer: I took classes from both Francine Prose and Susan Bell for my M.F.A., which was in creative nonfiction (at The New School, 2005-2007). Prose had just published her book and was constantly flying back from in from her book tour, which she hated, for our classes; Bell was still working on her book, and, reading the book I later came to realize, we were her guinea pigs for several of the more ambitious ideas of the book. It’s to her I owe the Berg and Ondaatje choices as well. By the way, Lopate also teaches at the New School, but only in the spring, so I had one chance to take his class and didn’t, more’s the pity.

Bell, Susan. The Artful Edit: On the Practice of Editing Yourself. Norton; 2008.

Berg, Scott. Max Perkins: Editor of Genius. Riverhead; 1997.

Burroway, Janet, Elizabeth Stuckey-French, and Ned Stuckey-French. Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft. 8th ed. Longman; 2010.

Flaherty, Francis. The Elements of Story: Field Notes on Nonfiction Writing. Harper; 2009.

Franklin, Jon. Writing for Story: Craft Secrets of Dramatic Nonfiction. Plume; 1994.

Goldberg, Natalie. Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within. 2nd. ed. Shambhala; 2010.

Hall, Oakley. How Fiction Works: Proven Secrets to Writing Successful Stories That Hook Readers and Sell. Story Press/F+W Publications; 2001.

(added) Lamott, Anne. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life Pantheon, 1994.

Lopate, Philip (ed). The Art of the Personal Essay. Anchor; 1995.

McKee, Robert. Story: Substance, Structure, Style and The Principles of Screenwriting. It; 1997.

Ondaatje, Michael. The Conversations: Walter Murch and the Art of Editing Film. Knopf; 2004.

Prose, Francine. Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them. Harper; 2007.

Snyder, Blake. Save The Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need. Michael Wiese; 2005.

Strunk, William and E.B. White. The Elements of Style (Illustrated). Penguin; 2005.

Posted in Lang, language, screenwriting, the arts, writing | Leave a Comment »

Newspaper allegedly gets it wrong

Posted by metaphorical on 16 November 2007

The Daily News is far from the only paper to get this wrong, but it gets it more starkly wrong than most — right in the headline:

Barry Bonds indicted for allegedly lying under oath

You can look at the indictment, and as you might expect, the grand jury doesn’t charge Bonds with allegedly lying under oath, it charges him with lying under oath.

Take Count Five:

Barry Lamar Bonds, unlawfully, willfully, and knowingly, did corruptly endeavor to influence, obstruct, and impede the due administration of justice, by knowingly giving Grand Jury testimony that was intentionally evasive, false, and misleading….

The Daily News, in short, is commiting the sin of the double-qualifier. Either is correct:

. The grand jury indicted Bonds for x

. Bonds allegedly did x

but to put them together is to end up with something false, if not simply absurd.

Similarly, there’s a 20% chance of showers, and it might rain, but not, “there might be a 20% chance of rain.”

It is, in fact, a dead certainty that it might rain. And Bonds was absolutely indicted, not allegedly, for absolutely lying under oath, which he allegedly did.

Posted in journalism, Lang, language, pop culture, writing | Leave a Comment »