Everything Unfinished

Everything Unfinished is a literary blog out of San Francisco, by James Warner.

Vonnegut’s Rules

Hemingway’s rules are about getting ahead, Naupaul’s about finding your voice. For balance, here are Kurt Vonnegut’s rules, listed in Bagombo Snuff Box: Uncollected Short Fiction, which focus on how to satisfy readerly appetites:“1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was […]

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Naipaul’s Rules

When V.S. Naipaul was asked by the Indian website Telkeha for writing advice, he produced this list:“1. Do not write long sentences. A sentence should not have more than ten or twelve words.2. Each sentence should make a clear statement. It should add to the statement that went before. A good paragraph is a series […]

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Heinlein’s Rules

Robert Heinlein wrote a famous list of rules for writers:“1. You must write.2. You must finish what you write.3. You must refrain from rewriting, except to editorial order.4. You must put the work on the market.5. You must keep the work on the market until it is sold.”Strikingly, these are all paraliterary rules, rules about […]

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Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall

Mantel portrays Thomas Cromwell as a great political fixer, who can more than hold his own at Henry VIII’s court because he’s already rubbed shoulders with Niccolò Machiavelli and the Borgias – Mantel has Thomas More call T. C. “an Italian through and through.” “We shall have to develop a hand signal for ‘Back off, […]

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InsideStorytime HAPPINESS

Nathan Bransford’s ten commandments for the happy writer seem pretty reasonable. But what if happiness is counter-productive? Dennis Barron reports here on Joe Forgas’s discovery that a “mildly negative mood may actually promote a more concrete, accommodative and ultimately more successful communication style.”Here is Joe Forgas’s website — he looks a bit cheesed off, which […]

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Towards a Typology of Dyslexic Writers

In Proust and the Squid, Maryanne Wolf makes some observations about which fields dyslexics are to be found in — “In medicine, individuals with dyslexia were likely to be found in radiology, where the ability to read patterns is central. In engineering and computer technology, they gravitated toward design and pattern recognition. In business, individuals […]

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Solitude Ahead of Survival

From Emmanuel Carrère’s fine biography of Philip K. Dick, I am Alive and you are Dead – “A powerful novelistic magic informs those places that lack witnesses. And I feel there is a profound though generally unremarked inequality between those who can avail themselves of this luxury of being able to live for a week […]

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Neal Stephenson’s Anathem

Anathem is a prolonged meditation on the essence of civilization, a manual on reasoning, a page-turning adventure story, a hymn to empiricism, and much more.It starts off squarely in the tradition of Walter M. Miller’s A Canticle for Leibowitz, and ends squarely in the tradition of one of those extremely long First Contact novels. The […]

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Endangered Snarkosaurs

Henry Fielding, The History of Tom Jones — “First, then, we warn thee not too hastily to condemn any of the incidents in this our history as impertinent and foreign to our main design, because thou doest not immediately conceive in what manner such incident may conduce to that design. This work may, indeed, be […]

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Monosyllables

I already touched on Otto Jespersen’s claim in Growth and Structure of the English Language that English is a “masculine” language – that it has plenty of consonants being one alleged reason, another that it has plenty of monosyllables. “English has undoubtedly gained in force what it has possibly lost in elegance, by reducing so […]

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Sympathy for the Grammarian

Maryanne Wolf writes in Proust and the Squid about a passage in Middlemarch where it dawns unpleasantly on Casaubon that Dorothea may be too flighty for him —“I have read Middlemarch half a dozen times. Only when I read it last year did I see this passage about Mr. Casaubon in a different light. For […]

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Dale Peck’s Body Surfing

I didn’t see this one coming: Dale Peck has written a novel that reads like a Clive Barker novel — witty, gory, stylish horror that’s distinctly gay. Hopping genres as easily as the demons in Body Surfing switch bodies, Peck summons up a world of rapid conquests and unbridled appetites – all of human history […]

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Plenty of Other Fish in John Banville’s The Sea

“I can still recall the aroma of after-lunch coffee on the doctor’s breath and the fishy swivel of his housekeeper’s eye as she saw me to the front door.” — John Banville, The Sea“Fishy swivel” is great, simultaneously a guilty pleasure to pronounce and some kind of a pun — the housekeeper suspects the doctor […]

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Nicholas Ostler’s Empires of the Word: A Language History of the World

Ostler believes that languages have characters and that, even for a language, character is destiny.

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Animals and Alphabets

Here’s something that struck me, years back, while my daughter was first learning to read. My daughter hadn’t yet seen a live kangaroo, but having seen the K-is-for-kangaroo illustration in Dr. Seuss’s ABC, and the K-is-for-kangaroo illustration in Curious George’s ABCs, she could look at a third cartoon of a kangaroo and recognize it instantly. […]

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