Lean, Handsome, Deliberate

by Henry Farrell on July 13, 2003

“Kevin Drum”:http://www.calpundit.com/archives/001630.html complains about the writing style in an _Esquire_ piece on Wesley Clark. The offending quote:

bq. Look into his eyes. They’re not eyes so much as scanning devices—not quite predatory, no, but sort of an odd combination of jittery and calm, of patient and imploring, alert and exhausted, set back there in the hollows and shadows of his lean, handsome, deliberate face.

And Kevin’s comment:

bq. At first, you just skip past this stuff, but when you actually think about it you start to wonder how the hell do they make this stuff up? Seriously, can you imagine yourself ever looking into somebody’s eyes and coming up with that paragraph to describe them? Me neither.

He’s not the first to complain about the vapidity of this descriptive approach, Myles na gCopaleen (aka Flann O’Brien, aka Brian O’Nolan) asks in the Irish Times (sometime in the 1940’s, ’50’s or 60’s) whether:

bq. you derive amusement from this funny way of writing English? It is very smart and up-to-date. It was invented by America’s slick glossy _Time_ and copied by hacks in every land. For two pins I will write like that every day, in Irish as well as English. Because that sort of writing is taut, meaningful, hard, sinewy, compact, newsy, factual, muscular, meaty, smart, modern, brittle, chromium, bright, flexible, omnispectric.

Myles na gCopaleen is essential reading for all bloggers; the _Best of Myles_ compilation is available in a limited edition (handprinted on camelskin vellum and bound between freeze-dried rashers) from “Amazon”:http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/1564782158/qid=1058129523/sr=1-1/ref=sr_1_1/002-2395690-7572844?v=glance&s=books for a small consideration. O’Nolan was an enemy of cant, hypocrisy and pabulum; his “catechism of cliche,” included in the _Best of Myles_, is of particular relevance for bloggers. One of these days, I might get around to writing an updated version; as “Kieran”:http://www.kieranhealy.org/blog/archives/000486.html has already shown, there’s scope for it.



James 07.14.03 at 1:00 am

A bit of Myles is recomended reading for all, bloggers or not.


Patrick Nielsen Hayden 07.14.03 at 2:54 am

God. Yes.

Can it be that there are sentient beings unaware of the glory that if O’Brien/Nolan/Myles &c?

Yes,More of It

What happens to blows at a council meeting?
It looks as if they might be exchanged!
What does pandemonium do?
It breaks loose,
Describe its subsequent dominion,
It reigns,
How are allegations dealt with?
What is the mean temperature of an altercation, therefore?
What is the behaviour of a heated altercation?
It follows.
What happens to order?
It is restored,
Alternatively, in what does the meeting break up?
What does the meeting do in disorder?
Breaks up,
In the what direction does the meeting break in disorder?


Carlos 07.14.03 at 4:05 am

“He just sat there roaring ‘Camembert! Camembert!'”

Finally, a web log where that will not be too obscure.

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