Archives - February 2010

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Feb. 26

Oscar Wilde

4

An Unfortunate Wit

     Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wilde.  Now that's an Irish name.  He was born in Dublin, the son of Irish intellectuals. His mother was a poet and staunch Irish nationalist who had a lofty contempt for polite society.  He once invited an Oxford classmate to meet his mum at their home "where we have founded a Society for the Suppression of Virtue."  So he came by his wise-ass attitude honestly; he inherited it.

     Wilde had four siblings, all who died before their times.  The most tragic episode was the twin deaths of his sisters Emily and May.  Emily's dress caught fire while standing too close to the flames of the fireplace.  Her sister May ushered her out of the house and down the steps to roll her in the snow.  Unfortunately, May's dress caught flame as well.  ...

Feb. 25

The Art of Letter Writing

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Ars Dictaminis

     With the infusion of tweets and twitters and twitches in our lexicon, the act of writing honest-to-God, pen-to-paper letters is becoming extinct.  During the Middle Ages, the art of letter writing was called ars dictaminis (Latin, "art" + "compose").  In much the same way, the metaphysical poet John Donne wrote a poem about the art of saying farewell: "Valediction: Forbidding Mourning."  As a society we are quickly forgetting both.

     Our literary canon is filled with epistolary novels.  It began in 1740 when Samuel Richardson wrote Pamela, a work many consider the first English novel.  Goethe used letters in his Sorrows of Young WertherPride and Prejudice was originally written in epistolary form until Jane Austen changed her mind and re-wrote it.  C.S. Lewis used a letter framework for his book The Screwtape Letters (nothing like stating the obvious).  In more ...

Feb. 24

Beowulf on the Beach

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To read or not to read . . .

     Have you read the classics?  Have you tried to read one of the classics, like The Aeneid or Don Quixote, but just couldn't make your way to the end of the book?  I have picked up James Joyce's Ulysses more times than I can count but have never finished it.  I have had similar intentions over the years to read the Bible, the King James version, of course.  No new-fangled versions for me.  I've read the New Testament from beginning to end more than once, but I just can't seem to work my way through the mayhem of the Old Testament.  Too many "begets." 

     Author Jack Murnighan, who has a Ph.D. in medieval and renaissance literature, has the answer to your dilemma in his book Beowulf on the Beach, published in 2009.  And while you ...

Feb. 23

The Elements of Style

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Writing Advice

     In 1919 William Strunk, Jr., an English professor at Cornell, self-published a pithy little book titled The Elements of Style.  His student E. B. White took another look at the book in 1957 and decided that it was still valid.  As he said, it semed "to contain rich deposits of gold."  White revised the book and sent it forth for re-publication.  The Elements of Style has been on store bookshelves ever since.  Though the original manuscript is almost 100 years old, it is still relevant for today's writers.  Strunk gives us some common-sense ideas. The following is an excerpt from his introduction to the style section.

 

     ". . . Here we leave solid ground.  Who can confidently say what ignites a certain combination of words, causing them to explode in the mind?  Who knows why certain notes in music are capable ...

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Listening to the whispering pines

Hello. My name is Donna Cozart Pauley. Welcome to The Whispering Pines, a literary blog dedicated to my love of the written word. It is an eclectic collage of my life -- from my poems to my stories to my family to my pets to my causes to my photographs to my recipes to my love of teaching to my favorite literature. Please feel free to comment. Words are only important if they are heard or read. Just like those soundless trees falling in the forest.

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