Pur Autre Vie

I'm not wrong, I'm just an asshole

Saturday, July 14, 2012

In Soviet Russia, Wood Gets Sorkin

So, here is James Wood, in How Fiction Works:
[A description of a baby's arms as "so fat that they seem tied with string"] is from Anna Karenina, and it is a nice example of self-plagiarism.  In that novel, not one but two babies—Levin's and Anna's—are described as looking as if string is tied around their fat little arms.  Likewise, in David Copperfield, Dickens likens Uriah Heep's open mouth to a post office, and Wemmick's open mouth, in Great Expectations—to a post office.  Stendhal writes, in The Red and the Black, about how politics ruins a novel in the way a gunshot would spoil a music concert, and then repeats the image in The Charterhouse of Parma.  Henry James wrote that Balzac, in his monkish devotion to his art, was "a Benedictine of the actual," a phrase he liked so much he used it later about Flaubert.  Cormac McCarthy writes, in Blood Meridian, "the blue cordilleras stood footed in their paler image on the sand," and returns to that lovely verb seven years later in All the Pretty Horses:  "Where a pair of herons stood footed to their long shadows."  Why shouldn't he?  Such things are rarely examples of haste and more often proof that a style has achieved self-consistency.  And that a kind of Platonic ideal has been reached—these are the best, and therefore unsurpassable words, for these subjects.
Got that? Self-consistency, Platonic ideal, best, unsurpassable. Now, how about this?

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