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I stand there. Eyes mist to the wind feel the fresh rush past. Up my nose. That sting. That new day it’s so early in the morning. I see the white and clear. Rising up of the waters. Running round my feet. My gravel feet. My earthbound feet that feel the sway of it. Water. Of the world that’s changing now no changed. It’s changed and this is looking back. The past a flash front.
Eimear McBride, A Girl is a Half-formed Thing (2013)
The first study, published in 2008, showed that 11 and 12-year-olds in Britain who used more textisms — whether misspelled words (“ppl,” instead of “people”), grammatically incorrect substitutions (“2” for “to” or “too”), wrong verb forms (“he do” instead of “he does”), or missing punctuation — compared to properly written words tended to have slightly better scores on standardized grammar and writing tests and had better spelling, after controlling for test scores in other subjects and other factors. A 2009 study, conducted by some of the same researchers on 88 kids between 10 and 12 years old, found similar associations between high textism use and slightly better reading ability.
Hovertext from the xkcd comic: I’d like to find a corpus of writing from children in a non-self-selected sample (e.g. handwritten letters to the president from everyone in the same teacher’s 7th grade class every year)—and score the kids today versus the kids 20 years ago on various objective measures of writing quality. I’ve heard the idea that exposure to all this amateur peer practice is hurting us, but I’d bet on the generation that conducts the bulk of their social lives via the written word over the generation that occasionally wrote book reports and letters to grandma once a year, any day.
Once again we find that texting is not ruining language! Huzzah!
Though I sympathise with the gist of the cartoon, its message is confused: it conflates great writing with high scores in grammar or spelling tests – which begs the question – and it also mixes up frequency of texting with the use of txtspk.
I remain a student of history, more of one than ever, now that our century has torn its way out of its chrysalis and become too beautiful to be examined, too alive to be debated and exploited by played-out intellectuals. The important thing is no longer to predict in what way its grand convulsions might next shake us. Now the important thing is to ride it into the sky.
Denis Johnson, The Name of the World (2000)
She had a funny way at the ends of her sentences. Rather than a pause, she created a plunge.
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One of the advantages of unrequited passions, I find, is that there is no need to worry about infidelity.
One can fall in love with a new person every day and hurt no one except oneself.
No recriminations, no sulking, no painful divorce.
I was an old hand.
Lucy Ellmann, Varying Degrees of Hopelessness (1991)
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Evil is even, truth is an odd number and death is a full stop. When a dog barks late at night and then retires again to bed, he punctuates and gives majesty to the serial enigma of the dark, laying it more evenly and heavily upon the fabric of the mind. Sweeny in the trees hears the sad baying as he sits listening on the branch, a huddle between the earth and heaven; and he hears also the answering mastiff that is counting the watches in the next parish. Bark answers bark till the call spreads like fire through all Erin. Soon the moon comes forth from behind her curtains riding full tilt across the sky, lightsome and unperturbed in her immemorial calm. The eyes of the mad king upon the branch are upturned, whiter eyeballs in a white face, upturned in fear and supplication. His mind is but a shell.
Flann O’Brien, At Swim-Two-Birds (1939)
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Gos cocked his head on one side and stared at the water. Odd, he was saying to himself, probably dangerous, but yet I like it. What is it? He put in his beak, leaning forward with every precaution, to see what it tasted of. (Hawks were one of the few creatures which did not regularly drink water except as a laxative: none needed to be provided for them in the mews.) It did not taste of anything, so he put in his beak again. Curious. He looked over his shoulder at the bigger bit of the stuff behind him, roused his feathers with a rattle, inspected the reeds, the landing stage, me motionless. He thought of flying to the landing stage, less than a yard away, and then gave up the idea. He walked down the slope of the plank into the water. All the time I did not know whether he would accept a bath or not.
T. H. White, The Goshawk (1951)
Delighted to announce we’ve resurrected the great (Northern) Irish literary journal The Honest Ulsterman at http://www.humag.co/
Over the next few days, I’ll write about the contributors, the featured work (from James Joyce to the devil), the history and spirit of the journal and our exciting future plans. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy reading it.
Onwards and upwards.
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Dangerous and indifferent ground: against its fixed mass the tragedies of people count for nothing although the signs of misadventure are everywhere. No past slaughter nor cruelty, no accident nor murder that occurs on the little ranches or at the isolate crossroads with their bare populations of three or seventeen, or in the reckless trailer courts of mining towns delays the flood of morning light. Fences, cattle, roads, refineries, mines, gravel pits, traffic lights, graffiti’d celebration of athletic victory on bridge overpass, crust of blood on the Wal-Mart loading dock, the sun-faded wreaths of plastic flowers marking death on the highway are ephemeral. Other cultures have camped here a while and disappeared. Only earth and sky matter. Only the endlessly repeated flood of morning light. You begin to see that God does not owe us much beyond that.
Annie Proulx, ‘People in Hell Just Want a Drink of Water’, from Close Range: Wyoming Stories (1999)
Serious faults in style are rarely, if ever, matters of ‘mere’ style; they embody real difficulties in conception.
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