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January 30, 2004

Classic Prose

Dear Friedrich --

Denis Dutton has posted a lot of fresh material on his site, here, only a little of which I've had time to catch up with so far. But I was thrilled to see that, like me, he's enthusiastic about Clear and Simple as the Truth: Writing Classic Prose, by Francis-NoŽl Thomas and Mark Turner. The book is basically a guide to writing good prose -- but it's also one of the most exciting meditations on learning, thought processes, language and classical art that I've ever run across. Turner's a fascinating guy who combines an interest in art with an interest in neuro- and cognitive science. Why isn't he better known?

A passage from Dutton's review:

The classic stylistís confidence derives in part from the manner in which the writing is addressed intimately to a single reader, rather than a large and possibly disparate group. Groups have to be persuaded, but friends donít have to explain everything in conversations.

The book is buyable here. Dutton's tiptop essay -- a firstclass introduction to the book -- is here. Here's Mark Turner's own website. Here's a long, high-level q&a with Turner by James Underhill.



posted by Michael at January 30, 2004



Let me start off by saying that this is not only my favorite blog by far, but easily in the best 5 websites *ever*. (Uh-oh, here comes the boom)


Do you two ever, kind of, sort of, "grade" yourselves on your postings by the number of comments that get posted? I mean, some seem spectaculaly "successful" by this measure. There were over 100 on the good books posting. With this in mind, I feel a little guilty when I scroll through and see a lonely little zero -- the kind of sad zeros that rampage like weeds through other blogs.

So, sorry. I can't think of anything to add on this one. Keep up the good work, though.


Posted by: Robert Holzbach on February 3, 2004 10:47 AM

Hey Robert -- You're too nice, and great to see you hanging around. It's funny, isn't it, the way comments build up on some postings and not others? Often hard to understand why -- actually, always hard to undertand why. I wonder what explanations might be. I've noticed that the postings that are the most complete unto themselves and most like essays get barely any comments at all. Maybe they don't seem like conversations starters. But otherwise I've got no ideas.

Thanks for giving this little posting some company.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on February 3, 2004 11:00 AM

Glad to be here. I guess some postings do seem self-contained, that shouldn't necessarily make them less valuable. Although, you would hope you'd get the occasional "Yes, yes, god yes!" response.

I remember in my econ grad school days one of my profs said that the principal problem of the Solow model of growth was that most economists thought that it was so obviously right. He said that's one of the worst things that can happen to your theory.

Posted by: Robert Holzbach on February 3, 2004 01:49 PM


If John Rawls can get away with his swindle - why shouldn't a mere mortal like Janna Thompson get away with using the exact same "device?"

Posted by: Gary on February 3, 2004 02:02 PM

Gary -- For a second there I thought you were just being way, way over my head. Then I realized you were actually responding to Friedrich's posting a couple of postings up. Not that you aren't still being way over my head ...

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on February 3, 2004 02:33 PM

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