Snippets #35

Tom Robbins-Another Roadside Attraction

Smokestack Lightning also executed an expurgated version of the Hopi rain dance, using live rattlesnakes when he could get away with it: the deputy sheriffs in some town forced him to substitute nonpoisonous serpents in the interest of public safety. Incidentally, it was a couple of those garter-snake substitutes that the newlywed Zillers purchased to stock their roadside zoo, although the reader doesn’t have to be burdened with all these details, now does he? (21)

Is this a sentence? #2 (On Writing & Editing)

So this is a new thing I want to try, where I submit something new I have written that day for critique, but I think instead of just a sentence I will offer up a whole paragraph for critique and rewrite. Now, only the awesome Keanan stepped up last time to fix my awkward mess, but I hope you dear reader, yes you!, will pick apart this paragraph and put it back together, how you see fit. So tell me, is this a sentence…er paragraph?

(I understand there is sort of an ontological issue of what is and is not a sentence/paragraph, so I guess what I am asking is just how would you improve this sentence/paragraph. You really could just just write whatever you want in the comments, in relation to or not in relation to the snippet, or whatever else you might want to write about really. Oh, and I should tell you this is from my work in progress, tentatively titled “Confessions of the Werewolf”. Most likely just another layer on the slush it goes.)

The Submission:

This triggered a panic in the men and one of them began to fire. A number of rounds riddled my back. The subsequent burst of blood, now freed from the effects of the ring, created a bloody silhouette, which became the perfect target for the now hysteric men.

Snippets #34

James Wood-How Fiction Works


Nietzsche laments, in Beyond Good and Evil: “What a torment books written in German are for him who has a third ear.” If prose is to be as well written as poetry–the old modernist hope–novelists and readers must develop their own third ears. We have to read musically, testing the precision and rhythm of a sentence, listening for the almost inaudible rustle of historical association clinging to the hems of modern words, attending to patterns, repetitions, echoes, deciding why one metaphor is successful and another is not, judging how the perfect placement of the right verb or adjective seals a sentence with mathematical finality. We must proceed on the assumption that almost all prose popularly acclaimed as beautiful (“she writes like an angel”) is nothing of the sort, that almost every novelist will at some point be baselessly acclaimed for writing “beautifully” as almost all flowers are at some point acclaimed for smelling nice. (182)

Snippets #33

James Wood-How Fiction Works


If Macbeth’s story is one of publicized privacy, Raskolnikov’s story is one of scrutinized privacy. God still exists, but he is not watching Raskolnikov–at least, not until the end of the novel when Raskolnikov accepts Christ. Until that moment, Raskolnikov is being watched by us, the readers. The crucial difference between this and the theater is that we are invisible. In David’s story the audience is in some important way irrelevant; in Macbeth’s the audience is visible and silent, and soliloquy does indeed have the feeling not only of an address to an audience but of a conversation with an interlocutor–us–who will not respond, a blocked dialogue. In Raskolnikov’s story the audience–the reader–is invisible but all-seeing; so the reader has replaced David’s God and Macbeth’s audience. (146)

Snippets #32

James Wood-How Fiction Works

By thisness, I mean the moment when Emma Bovary fondles the satin slippers she danced in weeks before at the great ball at La Vaubyessard, “the soles of which were yellowed with wax from the dance floor.” By thisness, I mean the cow manure that Ajax slips in while racing at the grand funeral games, in Book 23 of the Illiad (thisness is often used to puncture ceremonies like funerals and dinners that are designed precisely to euphemize thisness; what Tolstoy calls making a bad smell in the drawing room).* (69)

Snippets #31

Mercia Eliade-The Sacred and the Profane

But we shall see that if every inhabited territory is a cosmos, this is precisely because it was first consecrated, because, in one way or another, it is the work of the gods or is in communication with the world of the gods. The world (that is, our world) is a universe within which the sacred has already manifested itself, in which, consequently, the break-through from plane to plane has become possible and repeatable. It is not difficult to see why the religious moment implies the cosmogonic moment. The sacred reveals absolute reality and at the same time makes orientation possible; hence it founds the world in the the sense that it fixes the limits and established the order of the world. (30)