Friday, July 18, 2008

Reading in the early twenty-first century

I find a great many things irritable. I am putting effort into reading again, which is, after all, what this blog is supposed to address. But folks, it isn't easy.

I am very old-fashioned in many ways. I like sentences to have beginnings, middles and ends. I despise fragments passed off as sentences. I loathe it when people use "which" when they mean "this" as in, "Which means I am a curmudgeon," standing alone as if it were a sentence instead of the fragment it is. I had a blog a few years ago in which I wrote on the subject of professional writers who make many errors. Some people chose to comment, and they all agreed that I was harsh, that I ought to consider what the writers mean instead of how they say it, that I should make allowances for poor spelling, egregious grammar errors and pathetic sentence structure.

I don't.

This brings me to reading contemporary writing. Currently I am reading a book which I shall review here. I have to keep reminding myself of the book's topic because I am continually distracted by things such as noun and verb disagreement (e.g., "Everyone has *their* favorites."), fragments and hyphens, hyphens everywhere - - everywhere they don't belong, that is. All this makes concentration difficult.

Decades ago, I studied technical theatre arts. I was taught that good lighting is that which enhances the play but which does not call attention to itself. This became a yardstick for other things in life, including writing. If the writing style interferes with my reading, that is bad writing. If I keep noticing "facts" that are incorrect, spelling that is wrong, references that are in error and bizarre neologisms, that is bad writing. I cannot tell you how many times I run smack up against these problems.

Maybe the books have much to say, but I find it challenging to get to what they say because of how they say them. Once in a while I take time out to read something from periods when people prized good communication. It is a tonic to my curmudgeonly soul.

1 comment:

DianeM said...

I'm so glad there are people who still care about this! I know exactly what you mean when you say the writing gets in the way of the reading and although I try to make myself read newer books I find that I am so often disappointed by constant small errors and reach once again for the elderly favourites.

At the moment, I am rediscovering Henry James :-)