Thursday, January 24, 2013

Good sentences, period.

Catering to the proverbially shrinking attention span of today's readers (but really to that of this blog's writer), here are some enjoyable excerpts from Detectives Beyond Borders' recent crime reading. Who says context is everything?
"Smolorz, you'll draw up a list of all private menageries in Breslau and the neighboring regions, also a list of eccentrics who sleep with anacondas."
— Marek Krajewski, Death in Breslau 
"The dick books ["Dick books" = true-crime pulp magazines. ed.] are shot. I figured I'd hang on till I retire, but I don't see them lasting five years."
— Joseph Koenig, False Negative 
"The puns and double entendres that he purged from his writing he saved for Greenstein, who mistook him for a wit."
— ibid. 
"He'd considered himself the glue that held the Press together, and was disappointed in a way that it hadn't fallen apart immediately without him."
 — ibid. 
"Sneaking in back doors was for weak men and Canadians."
—Johnny Shaw, "Blood and Tacos,"  featuring Chingón, the World's Deadliest Mexican 
"In ten minutes I had a clean and tight dressing on my ear and he hadn't spoken once about the Bhagavad Gita."
—Eric Beetner, Dig Two Graves 
"(N)either man felt like chatting. Instead their silence included Lars neglecting to tell Trent that the green salsa was the hottest one."
— Eric Beetner, The Devil Doesn't Want Me
© Peter Rozovsky 2013

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19 Comments:

Blogger seana graham said...

Nice sampler. I associate Koenig with a different kind of book, and Beetner was my co-conspirator in the Grimm Tales world--although that's claiming a bit more than I should, as I believe he actually won the original contest. Anyway, I should look into both of them.

January 25, 2013  
Blogger R.T. said...

You say, "the proverbially shrinking attention span of today's readers," and I say, what proverb inspired that adverb?

Note: This is the composition teacher asking--and he is almost as annoying as some editors when it comes to urging the elimination of adverbs in the interest of clear, concise writing. :)

January 25, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, Koenig has had an interesting career. Did you read some of his books before his long layoff from novel reading?

January 25, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Why, it's just a byword!

January 25, 2013  
Blogger R.T. said...

Well, please elaborate on "byword." I am being slow today, but my understanding of "byword" (proverb; word that is notorious or noteworthy) still leaves me opposed to the adverb. Annoying, ain't I?

BTW, have you heard that a recent educational study (and those things are always suspect in their methods and conclusions) argues that "red pencil grading" ought to be abandoned because it stigmatizes and/or discourages students; instead, teachers ought to use more friendly pencil or pen colors (e.g., blue or black) because colors other than red are less hurtful.

So, you will note that my comments are in black and not red.

January 25, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

What's a pencil?

I have not heard of that study. But I do remember another study some years ago, and I don't remember whether it covered just one university or several, that found the lowest average SAT scores for students in any of the university's schools was in the school of education.

Definition of BYWORD
1: a proverbial saying : proverb
2a : one that personifies a type b : one that is noteworthy or notorious
3: epithet
4: a frequently used word or phrase

January 25, 2013  
Blogger R.T. said...

2 points:

(1) I still do not like the adverb, and I would urge its omission if I read it in a student's writing. I'm stubborn, aren't I.

(2) I have heard that one before about SAT scores and education majors. Anecdotal evidence that I have collected through observations over the past decade at my university corroborates that "fact.
There is also the hackneyed adage about those who do things versus those who cannot do things, with the latter becoming teachers. Of course, as a teacher, I am not keen on that adage.

January 25, 2013  
Blogger R.T. said...

Postscript: The red-pen study was included as a recent tidbit on the news. BTW, I have never used either red pencils or red pens, but that has had nothing to do with no hurting students' feelings. To my mind, editing is not concerned with the writer's feelings but it concerned with improvement of the writing. If the writer is so thin-skinned that he or she is irked by being told of errors, the writers should think about another line of work.

January 25, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I would accept and follow your advice in good grace. I'm a copy editor, so I (unlike publishers) know that copy editing is essential.

The late Richard Mitchell, of Underground Grammarian fame, used to refer scornfully to "educationists."

January 25, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Though this definition, from Merriam-Webster, supports my use of proverbially:

Definition of PROVERBIAL
1: of, relating to, or resembling a proverb
2: that has become a proverb or byword : commonly spoken of (the proverbial smoking gun)



January 25, 2013  
Blogger R.T. said...

Fair enough! But is still an adverb! And today--like Don Quixote and his windmills--I am in full-tilt against adverbs. This is my OCD challenge for the day. You just happened to throw one out there when my OCD juices were in full flow.

I used to assign a writing exercise to students. Write a 150 word descriptive paragraph--describing any activity--but do so without adverbs. Students discover that adverbs are too often superfluous.

January 25, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

You don't like proverbs. You don't like adverbs. When you get down and play rock and roll guitar, you probably don't like reverb.

January 25, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I may take that writing exercise of yours, as one of my periodic efforts to get my literary mojo working.

January 25, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

"If the writer is so thin-skinned that he or she is irked by being told of errors, the writers should think about another line of work."

Most writers today do not have to worry about being told of errors, and that is not based solely on my own experience at work.

January 25, 2013  
Blogger Eric Beetner said...

Thanks for mentioning not one but TWO of my sentences, Peter. Glad you found a few things to like in the books.

January 26, 2013  
Blogger Eric Beetner said...

You did miss the word 'tight' from the Dig Two Graves sentence. a 'clean and tight dressing', just FYI.

January 26, 2013  
Blogger Eric Beetner said...

(sorry, me again) just wanted to say you could fill a dozen posts with great lines from Chingon. Johnny Shaw has a seemingly endless supply of great one liners. He can string them all together into excellent novels too.

January 26, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I just wanted to see if you'd catch the missing word. In my real job (for now), my fellow copy editors and I sometimes wonder if reporters even read their stories after we've rendered them into comprehensible English. I am glad you were looking over my shoulder on this. Thanks.

January 26, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Eric: The Blood and Tacos format relies pretty heavily on spoof and one-liners, and you're right. Chingón has some good ones. I especially like Johnny Shaw's ear for cheesy, fake-profound dialogue, such as Chingón referring to himself repeatedly in the third person.

January 26, 2013  

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