Words and Writing

I read three good books lately. They brought to mind some thoughts about words and writing.

Dickens and Eliot

When I was in high school, the English department had a thing for mid-1800s English novels. I got enough from Tale of Two Cities, Return of the Native, and Silas Marner that I never wanted to read another book with a heath in it unless the Hound of the Baskervilles was there baying. But when the teacher mentioned Great Expectations, I recalled my high school classmate reading it under his desk while the teachers taught. I thought if he liked it so much, I should give it a try.

Charles Dickens in Great Expectations has great vigor of speech and characters who are unforgettable. His characters struggling against fundamental obstacles.

Yet after the novel, I set Dickens aside and I picked up George Eliot’s Middlemarch. Interesting contrast. Her characters are of more refined intelligence pitted against obstacles which arise from their positions in society, rather than Dickens’s more fundamental obstacles.

The Ways of Language

An essay in the third book, The Ways of Language, highlighted a mania for “correctness” as the source of our generally horrid and obtruse writing. Before we let others see our writing, the essay demands we enforce every rule. The danger, I fear, is the prose enters rigor mortis.

What else accounts for the difference between one’s vigor in speech and vapidness in writing?


Beatles from Sgt. Pepper
Beatles from Sgt. Pepper

No, this is not about the Beatles songwriting. It’s about a surprise in my Amazon Fire tablet. I was noddling around in its files and found this famous picture of the Beatles. Was it a result of web surfing? Whatever, doesn’t matter. I’m happy just to see it.

Project Gutenberg

The Dickens and Eliot books were both downloaded from Project Gutenberg to my Kindle. Did you know that Jan. 1, 2019 will be the first time in 20 years that old books will be emeging from copyright restrictions in the United States?

Under the Copyright Term Extension Act, books published in 1923, films released in 1923, and other works published in 1923, will enter the public domain in 2019. After 96 years of copyright protection!


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