Bob Ritchie's Journal
Journal of a Virtually Unpublished Writer
Tuesday 25 December 2007
From a writer’s point of view, not a bad haul of presents: one book token, one collected works of Oscar Wilde and something called a crayon d’initiation à l’écriture, which looks like – and probably is – nothing more than an unusually large pencil, perhaps an unsubtle hint from someone that I should start again.
Dipping at random into Oscar Wilde, as it were, coincidentally find support for an argument I frequently find myself having at dinner parties with outraged protectors of the English language who claim that its purity is constantly under threat from American English. It is, it seems, an argument that has been raging for some years. "It is, perhaps, worthwhile to note that what many people call Americanisms are really old English expressions which have lingered in our colonies while they have been lost in our own country. Many people imagine that the term ‘I guess’…is purely an American expression, but it was used by John Locke in his Essay concerning Human Understanding, just as we now use ‘I think’."
With that endorsement of my own view, now find myself wanting to read more of – what’s the piece called? – Personal Impressions of America. Every paragraph a minor gem. "The next thing particularly noticeable is that everybody seems in a hurry to catch a train. This is a state of things which is not favourable to poetry or romance. Had Romeo or Juliet been in a constant state of anxiety about trains, or had their minds been agitated by the question of return-tickets, Shakespeare could not have given us those lovely balcony scenes which are so full of poetry and pathos."
Or, "I was disappointed with Niagara – most people must be disappointed with Niagara. Every American bride is taken there, and the sight of the stupendous waterfall must be one of the earliest, if not the keenest, disappointments in American married life."
In a city called Leadville ("the richest city in the world") in the Rocky Mountains he lectured gun-carrying miners on the ethics of art, after which they "took me to a dancing saloon where I saw the only rational method of art criticism I have ever come across. Over the piano was printed a notice: ‘Please do not shoot the pianist. He is doing his best.’"
Wednesday 26 December 2007
It’s that time of the year. Feel myself turning into Scrooge. Could mainly be effects of too much booze and rich food yesterday, but doubt it. Feeling seems to have been growing most of the month. Probably the usual disgust at the usual unedifying spectacle of the usual over-consumption – as Tom Lehrer said, "Christmas, with its spirit of giving, offers us all a wonderful opportunity each year to reflect on what we all most sincerely and deeply believe in - I refer, of course, to money" – and even more disgust at myself for so unresistingly joining in. It’s enough to turn one into a Marxist.
As if that weren’t enough fear and loathing, reflecting on the year as a whole brings little cheer. Still haven’t broken through my writer’s block. No longer even sure I want to. Why write? What’s writing for? Have absolutely no idea. How can one add anything worthwhile to the work of writers like Oscar Wilde? Yet the internet grows more vast by the minute with the words of the millions who are certain their opinions are worth airing. Search – or google – for five minutes and you can find support for any view you care to propose. Search for a year and you’ll never find prose that isn’t leaden, hysterical or illiterate. The end result is silence, the void of cyberspace. Reason enough, in this blogger’s mind at any rate, to make it one voice less.
But before I sign off, must make good an omission. In nearly seven years of stealing the words of better writers, realise have never quoted one of my favourites. So:
Vladimir: Well? Shall we go?
Now, where’s my crayon d’initiation à l’écriture?
We are very sorry to say that this is Bob's last column for WritersServices. To read his contributions over the years, click on the links.
'Every paragraph a minor gem. "The next thing particularly noticeable is that everybody seems in a hurry to catch a train. This is a state of things which is not favourable to poetry or romance.'?'
"the only rational method of art criticism I have ever come across. Over the piano was printed a notice: ‘Please do not shoot the pianist. He is doing his best.'"'.'
'Still haven’t broken through my writer’s block. No longer even sure I want to. Why write? What’s writing for? Have absolutely no idea.'
© Bob G Ritchie 2000-2007
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