josh blog

Ordinary language is all right.

One could divide humanity into two classes:
those who master a metaphor, and those who hold by a formula.
Those with a bent for both are too few, they do not comprise a class.

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1 Oct '12 01:53:01 PM

'a children's record, a record for kids to dream to'

1 Oct '12 06:51:51 AM

Sometimes Thoreau will let a metaphor guide him through an entire paragraph. Sentences expand, relate to one another, in 'literary' ways. On 14 July 1852:

'Saw to-day for the first time this season fleets of yellow butterflies dispersing before us, we rode along berrying on the Walden road. Their yellow fleets are in the offing. Do I ever see them in numbers off the road? They are a yellow flower that blossoms generally about this time. Like a mackerel fleet, with their small hulls and great sails. Collected now in compact but gorgeous assembly in the road, like schooners in a harbor, a haven; now suddenly dispersing on our approach and filling the air with yellow snowflakes in their zigzag flight, or as when a fair wind calls those schooners out and disperses them over the broad ocean.'

Elsewhere, single sentences of Thoreau's often state single observations. In longer ones he records extended observations of complex objects, letting syntax accommodate his role as the observer. Shorter sentences then sound like facts, statements of facts. I saw this. This was that. Also. And then. But this technique also lets him do something surprising that would otherwise code as 'just' literary, as on 16 July:

'The bass on Conantum is a very rich sight now. Its twigs are drooping, weighed down with pendulous flowers, so that, when you stand directly under it and look up, you see one mass of flowers, a flowery canopy. Its conspicuous leaf-like bracts, too, have the effect of flowers. The tree resounds with the hum of bees,—bumblebees and honey-bees; rose-bugs and butterflies, also, are here,—a perfect susurrus, a sound, as C. says, unlike any other in nature,—not like the wind, as that is like the sea. The bees abound on the flowers of the smooth sumach now. The branches of this tree touch the ground, and it has somewhat the appearance of being weighed down with flowers. The air is full of sweetness. The tree is full of poetry.'

The effect of the final sentence is something like: 'I also saw this', that the tree was full of poetry. Not a metaphor, not a figure, but a perception, put into words stating a fact on a par with other facts.

1 Oct '12 03:16:23 AM

If purity of heart is to will one thing, then Archie Bell is pure of heart. So are the Drells.

1 Oct '12 01:35:04 AM

Spring of the leaf and fall of the leaf.

1 Oct '12 12:50:33 AM

'…you can do this thing or not do it…'

30 Sep '12 03:22:57 AM

—The state, and your furious mother, when you're four.

30 Sep '12 03:16:01 AM

The state calls you by all your names; intimates, by less than one.

30 Sep '12 12:14:50 AM

Famous people are called by two names, familiar people by one. When writers want a character to loom larger for us they make the other characters call her constantly by her full name.

29 Sep '12 08:22:33 PM

Grietzerian line from Lichtenberg: 'What leaning on your right elbow means after you have been leaning on your left for an hour'.