I would have liked to attend this book launch of Jeremy Noel-Tod’s brilliant The Whitsun Wedding Video, Quote unquote:
One of the great things about these essays is how Noel-Tod refuses to allow poetry to stay in its little poetry ghetto. It lives, if it lives at all, out in the real world where we live and breathe; this has always been the reason why JNT has held it to account for itself. He’s not opinionated so much as something far rarer: smartly observant. […] The essay on Eliot – on whom Noel-Tod is an authority – is sublime; alone it’s worth the price of the book. And the title makes me sick with envy.The singular they excites grammar pedants possibly more than anything else, though it has an honourable lineage over the centuries. I use it because it’s useful. Stroppy editor Tom Freeman also thinks it’s OK. Quote unquote:
Here are some early examples (mostly from the Oxford English Dictionary and Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage):
Wycliffe’s Bible, 1382: “Eche on in þer craft ys wijs.” (Each one is wise in their craft.)
Rolls of Parliament, 1463–65: “Inheritementes, of which any of the seid persones… was seised by theym self, or joyntly with other.”
William Roye (translation of Martin Luther), 1529: “So that yf the one shulde withdrawe them selves from the other deniyng them their bodyes to vse accordinge to naturall vsage permitted vnto mariage it is vndoubted that they shulde so defraude them and do them wronge.”
Thomas More, 1533: “Neyther Tyndale there nor thys preacher here hath by theyr maner of expounynge… wonne them self mych wurshyp”
John Whitgift, 1574: “None is admitted to anye degree here in Cambridge, but the same is first presented… by some one of that facultie, who giueth his fidelitie for them.”
Singular “they” has always been an option for writers. But during the 17th and 18th centuries, grammarians decided to get angry about this, and launched a coup on behalf of generic “he”.
Sarah Waters’ ten rules for writing fiction. Quote unquote:
#3 Treat writing as a job.
Be disciplined. Lots of writers get a bit OCD-ish about this. Graham Greene famously wrote 500 words a day. Jean Plaidy managed 5,000 before lunch, then spent the afternoon answering fan mail. My minimum is 1,000 words a day – which is sometimes easy to achieve, and is sometimes, frankly, like shitting a brick, but I will make myself stay at my desk until I’ve got there, because I know that by doing that I am inching the book forward. Those 1,000 words might well be rubbish – they often are. But then, it is always easier to return to rubbish words at a later date and make them better.
Terence Blacker’s Seven Rules of Rejection. I have been both sender and receiver of these messages. He is absolutely right. Quote unquote:
The third rule: distrust any request to rewrite your manuscript.
Some particularly wimpish editors will resort to the worst kind of rejection – one that offers false hope. They say that they would love certainly reconsider their decision if the manuscript were completely revised and rewritten.
It is a lie, and one which invariably costs authors months of work leading to more heartache. Any work which has been turned down once will be turned down again, however radically changed. Editors are too busy to have second thoughts. They rarely, if ever, change their mind.
If anyone remembers Camille Paglia, here she is on Susan Sontag. Quote unquote:
Camille Paglia, the soi-disant wild woman of nineties academe, has carefully studied Sontag’s image, and wrote an essay on the subject, “Sontag, Bloody, Sontag.” This was no mere intellectual exercise. She intended to use Sontag as a career model—to discern pop culture’s reasons for celebrating Sontag and then exploit her findings to launch herself to similar stardom. “I’m the Sontag of the 1990s—there’s no doubt about it,” Paglia claimed in one of her typical bouts of modesty.
If you are an old person and wonder why today’s records all sound the same, here’s why, with examples. Quote unquote:
So the business shifted from the console—the huge knob-covered desk in front of a pair of wardrobe-sized monitor speakers—to the computer screen. You weren’t looking at the band or listening to the music, you were staring at 128 channels of wiggling coloured lines.
One wonders, has kale had its heyday? Maybe so. Quote unquote:
“Kale is kind of over,” she went on, “but the name’s still powerful, so you can do kale sprouts. These aren’t baby kales, but a hybrid between kale and brussels sprouts. […] They’re inspiring to fritter or to fry because they’re a little crinkly. Or brush them with oil and roast them kind of low.” She paused. “Cauliflower is having a moment.”
So here is American composer Harry Partch in 1969 making rose-petal jam: