A follow up for those of you who enjoyed the SRoB interview with Nicola Griffith. She posted this week looking at gender bias between the shortlist and winners of literary prizes — this data was drawn from the Literary Prize Data group, the folks who volunteered to put in the hours to collect the data when she put out the call.
Data suggest that the step from literary prize shortlist to winner might be an important inflection point in the operation of unconscious bias against women in the publishing ecosystem.
Vijith Assar’s grammar lesson dealing with passive voice, from his McSweeney’s column “Facepalm Pilot: Where Technology Meets Stupidity”. The great thing about this is his build. He starts simple, instructs and builds until he’s reached the complexity of the kind of language we see every day. And then, he drives it all home. Can't recommend this one enough.
As a thought experiment, let’s examine in extremely close detail a set of iterative changes that can be made to a single simple grammatical structure, turning it from a statement taken at face value into one loaded with unrealized implication. This makes for rich writing which rewards – or even demands – close scrutiny.
The New York Review of Books published this Italo Calvino piece this week, wherein he reminisces on watching movies as a young man in pre-war Italy
Italian spectators barbarously made entering after the film already started a widespread habit, and it still applies today. We can say that back then we already anticipated the most sophisticated of modern narrative techniques, interrupting the temporal thread of the story and transforming it into a puzzle to put back together piece by piece or to accept in the form of a fragmentary body. To console us further, I’ll say that attending the beginning of the film after knowing the ending provided additional satisfaction: discovering not the unraveling of mysteries and dramas, but their genesis; and a vague sense of foresight with respect to the characters. Vague: just like soothsayers’ visions must be, because the reconstruction of the broken plot wasn’t always easy, especially if it was a detective movie, where identifying the murderer first and the crime afterward left an even darker area of mystery in between. What’s more, sometimes a part was still missing between the beginning and the end, because suddenly while checking my watch I’d realize I was running late; if I wanted to avoid my family’s wrath I had to leave before the scene that was playing when I entered came back on. Therefore lots of films ended up with holes in the middle, and still today, more than thirty years later—what am I saying?—almost forty, when I happen to see one of those films from back then—on television, for example—I recognize the moment in which I entered the theater, the scenes that I’d watched without understanding them, and I recover the lost pieces, I put the puzzle back together as if I’d left it incomplete the day before.
The best writing lesson what can be had on the internet, no doubt. LitHub excerpt’s Le Guin’s updated edition of Steering the Craft.
A good writer, like a good reader, has a mind’s ear. We mostly read prose in silence, but many readers have a keen inner ear that hears it. Dull, choppy, droning, jerky, feeble: these common criticisms of narrative are all faults in the sound of it. Lively, well-paced, flowing, strong, beautiful: these are all qualities of the sound of prose, and we rejoice in them as we read. Narrative writers need to train their mind’s ear to listen to their own prose, to hear as they write.