September 26, 2005

there's room at the top for private detection


man at war, daniel johnson

* top ten conservative idiots. excerpt:

"6. Alberto Gonzalez

"Wonderful news - the war on terrorism is over! Sure, nobody's actually made a formal announcement yet, but it has to be over if the FBI is now diverting its resources towards the war against... porn.

"'Early last month, the bureau's Washington Field Office began recruiting for a new anti-obscenity squad. Attached to the job posting was a July 29 Electronic Communication from FBI headquarters to all 56 field offices, describing the initiative as 'one of the top priorities' of Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales,' reported the Washington Post last week.

"It seems that the new Porn Squad will comprise of eight agents, a supervisor, and 'assorted support staff,' and will focus on porn manufacturers - 'not the kind exploiting children, but the kind that depicts, and is marketed to, consenting adults.' And the crazy bastards at the Family Research Council have announced that the new Porn Squad gives them "a growing sense of confidence in our new attorney general.'

"Hmm... so the previously-unpopular-among-conservatives Alberto Gonzalez has managed to throw a bone to the radical right (literally and metaphorically), just in time for Bush to make another appointment to the Supreme Court. How convenient!"

* 1981 Raymond Carver piece on why he prefers the story to the novel. excerpt:

"It's possible, in a poem or a short story, to write about commonplace things and objects using commonplace but precise language, and to endow those things—a chair, a window curtain, a fork, a stone, a woman's earring—with immense, even startling power. It is possible to write a line of seemingly innocuous dialogue and have it send a chill along the reader's spine—the source of artistic delight, as Nabokov would have it. That's the kind of writing that most interests me. I hate sloppy or haphazard writing whether it flies under the banner of experimentation or else is just clumsily rendered realism. In Isaac Babel's wonderful short story, 'Guy de Maupassant,' the narrator has this to say about the writing of fiction: 'No iron can pierce the heart with such force as a period put just at the right place.' This too ought to go on a three-by-five.

"Evan Connell said once that he knew he was finished with a short story when he found himself going through it and taking out commas and then going through the story again and putting commas back in the same places. I like that way of working on something. I respect that kind of care for what is being done. That's all we have, finally, the words, and they had better be the right ones, with the punctuation in the right places so that they can best say what they are meant to say. If the words are heavy with the writer's own unbridled emotions, or if they are imprecise and inaccurate for some other reason—if the words are in any way blurred—the reader's eyes will slide right over them and nothing will be achieved. The reader's own artistic sense will simply not be engaged. Henry James called this sort of hapless writing 'weak specification.'
...
"VS Pritchett's definition of a short story is 'something glimpsed from the corner of the eye, in passing.' Notice the 'glimpse' part of this. First the glimpse. Then the glimpse given life, turned into something that illuminates the moment and may, if we're lucky—that word again—have even further-ranging consequences and meaning. The short story writer's task is to invest the glimpse with all that is in his power. He'll bring his intelligence and literary skill to bear (his talent), his sense of proportion and sense of the fitness of things: of how things out there really are and how he sees those things—like no one else sees them. And this is done through the use of clear and specific language, language used so as to bring to life the details that will light up the story for the reader. For the details to be concrete and convey meaning, the language must be accurate and precisely given. The words can be so precise they may even sound flat, but they can still carry; if used right, they can hit all the notes."

* the thirteen most corrupt in congress.

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