Saturday, May 30, 2009

Mary Duffy's Sentence Openers

Mary Duffy, Author of Toolbox for Writers launches new e-book: Sentence Openers.

Mary Duffy's webpage touts a new approach to power-writing: By focusing on how to open sentences.

Mary promises:
"Download Sentence Openers and you'll see that this humble book will change not only the quality of your writing, but also the quality of your professional life."
Given the scarcity of good writing books, this e-book may be a breath of fresh air for anyone who works with words: students, business people, Internet marketers, novelists, essayist,ESL students, and many others. The book is accessible to anyone wishing to write English well.



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Monday, May 25, 2009

New York City Scene

At 57th and Lexington Avenue, a blind man was shouting, "Help me across, somebody!" I hurried and gently gave him my arm. Right in the middle of the street the man yells at me:
"Move your ass, man-- I don't want to get runover!"

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Harold Coyle, They Are Soldiers

A master of American English syntax, Harold Coyle grabs you by the hand and won’t let go until you are done with the book. They Are Soldiers is a showcase for athletic prose.

But how does he do it?

The secret is in his sentence openers. Seldom does one find the pattern subject, verb, complement. His openers abound in prepositional phrases and lots of subordinate clauses. Gone are the days when American writers--under the influence of Ernest Hemingway--wrote tedious chains of short declarative sentence.

Writers like Harold Coyle will re-instate American English to prominence once again.

The grunts fighting the war in Iraq are in great numbers our friends, neighbors, and relatives: The Army Reserve and the National Guard. Coyle’s theme is that these citizens are soldiers—not to be looked down as a half-ragged militia.

What a joy it is to read fluid, breathless narrative.

Read Coyle’s book. Pray for our men and women in uniform. It's time to bring them back--unharmed and whole or wounded and maimed, but bring them back--to their friends, their moms, and pops, siblings, friends, their hoods, their towns, their states—bring them back to a grateful nation!

The writing techniques I employ in this article are all explained in Mary Duffy's writing manual:

www.sentenceopeners.com


Augustine, City of God
Austen J, Pride and Prejudice
Austen J, "Marriage Proposals and Me"
Austen J, Emma
Borges, The Aleph
C. Bronte, Jane Eyre
Burroughs E,Tarzan
Cervantes, Don Quijote
Chaucer, Wife of Bath
Coelho P,The Alchemist
Coyle H, They Are Soldiers
Dante, New Life
Dickens C, David Copperfield
Dostoevsky, Crime&Punishment
ConanDoyle,Hound of Baskervilles
Dubner S, Superfreakonomics

DuMaurier D, Rebecca
Ellis B. E. American Psycho
Fitzgerald S, Great Gatsby
Flaubert G, Madame Bovary
Fleming I,Doctor No
Freud S, Leonardo Da Vinci
Friedan B, Feminine Mystique
GarciaMarquez, Of Love & OtherDemons
GarciaMarquez,OneHundredYrs
Guerrero M,ThePoison Pill

Grass G, The Tin Drum
Harris T, Hannibal Rising
Heidegger M,House of Being
Ishiguro K, Remains of The Day
Johnson S,Rasselas
Kafka,Metamorphosis
Kosinski J, The Painted Bird
Lee H,To Kill a Mockingbird
McBain Ed,Gutter and Grave
Murakami H,Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
Nabokov V, Lolita
Meyer, S, Twilight
Ortega,Dehumanization of Art
Poe E A, Gordon Pym
Prose F, Reading Like a Writer
Rushdie S,Midnight Children
Sabatini R, Scaramouche
Spark M, Prime of Miss Brodie

Stendhal, Red and Black
Sterne L,Tristram Shandy
Stevenson R, Dr.Jekyll & Mr.Hyde
Stoker B, Dracula
Thackeray W,History of Pendennis
Tolstoy L, Anna Karenina
Trollope A, Autobiography
Unamuno M, Tragic Sense of Life
Voltaire, Candide
Webb J, Fields of Fire
Wharton E, The House of Mirth
Woolf V, To The Lighhouse


The secrets of 'no-doze' prose:
Mary Duffy's Sentence Openers



Lindsey Vonn after winning the Downhill World ...
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Lindsey Vonn


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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Virginia Woolf's Sensuous Writing Technique

In dialogue as well as in description, a fine novelist must appeal to the reader's senses. Witness, a sensuous description by Virginia Woolf in Between the Acts:
The roof was weathered red-orange, and inside it was a hollow hall, brown, smelling of corn, dark when the doors were shut, but splendidly illuminated when the doors at the end stood open, as they did, to let the wagons in--the long, low wagons, like ships of the sea, breasting the corn, not the sea, returning in the evening, shagged with hay.

Leonardo Da Vinci spent his life experimenting with colors, light, and shadows. So did Virginia Woolf, but using words instead of pigments.
The writing techniques I use are explained in Mary Duffy's Toolbox for Writers e-book.

Mary Duffy's Toolbox for Writers


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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Freud's Leonardo DaVinci (1452-1519)

Sigmund Freud --the father of Psychoanalysis-- published a controversial monograph on Leonardo DaVinci's purported homosexuality. Because Freud admired Leonardo as a true Renaissance man --in the same league as Francis Bacon and Nicolas Copernicus -- he wanted to offer a plausible scientific explanation for Leonardo's sexual proclivities.

His research lead him to the artist's traumatic childhood.

Freud also explains why Leonardo was a great starter but a poor finisher.

Much of Freud's conclusions depend on a fantasy that Leonardo recorded in his notebooks:
... while I was in my cradle a vulture came down to me, and opened my mouth with its tail, and struck me many times with its tail against my lips.

From this Freud constructs a dubious edifice about Leonardo. The fact that Freud used a bad translation (vulture--a large scavenger bird-- instead of the more appropriate 'kite' which is a small bird) ruins his entire analysis. By repeating the myth that vultures reproduce without assistance from a male, Freud concludes that since "he had a mother but no father," Leonardo "was able to identify himself with the child Christ."

Given the close relationship that Leonardo had with his mother, Freud even dares to translate the vulture fantasy as: "It was through this erotic relation with my mother that I became a homosexual."

Today, we should consider this monograph --Leonardo da Vinci and a Memory of His Childhood-- as a curiosity that mars Freud's entire theory of psychoanalysis as speculation and weird interpretation.

The writing techniques I use are explained in Mary Duffy's Toolbox for Writers e-book.

Mary Duffy's Toolbox for Writers


Augustine, City of God
Austen J, Pride and Prejudice
Austen J, "Marriage Proposals and Me"
Austen J, Emma
Borges, The Aleph
C. Bronte, Jane Eyre
Burroughs E,Tarzan
Cervantes, Don Quijote
Chaucer, Wife of Bath
Coelho P,The Alchemist
Coyle H, They Are Soldiers
Dante, New Life
Dickens C, David Copperfield
Dostoevsky, Crime&Punishment
ConanDoyle,Hound of Baskervilles
Dubner S, Superfreakonomics

DuMaurier D, Rebecca
Ellis B. E. American Psycho
Fitzgerald S, Great Gatsby
Flaubert G, Madame Bovary
Fleming I,Doctor No
Freud S, Leonardo Da Vinci
Friedan B, Feminine Mystique
GarciaMarquez, Of Love & OtherDemons
GarciaMarquez,OneHundredYrs
Guerrero M,ThePoison Pill

Grass G, The Tin Drum
Harris T, Hannibal Rising
Heidegger M,House of Being
Ishiguro K, Remains of The Day
Johnson S,Rasselas
Kafka,Metamorphosis
Kosinski J, The Painted Bird
Lee H,To Kill a Mockingbird
McBain Ed,Gutter and Grave
Murakami H,Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
Nabokov V, Lolita
Meyer, S, Twilight
Ortega,Dehumanization of Art
Poe E A, Gordon Pym
Prose F, Reading Like a Writer
Rushdie S,Midnight Children
Sabatini R, Scaramouche
Spark M, Prime of Miss Brodie

Stendhal, Red and Black
Sterne L,Tristram Shandy
Stevenson R, Dr.Jekyll & Mr.Hyde
Stoker B, Dracula
Thackeray W,History of Pendennis
Tolstoy L, Anna Karenina
Trollope A, Autobiography
Unamuno M, Tragic Sense of Life
Voltaire, Candide
Webb J, Fields of Fire
Wharton E, The House of Mirth
Woolf V, To The Lighhouse


The secrets of 'no-doze' prose:
Mary Duffy's Sentence Openers



Lindsey Vonn after winning the Downhill World ...
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Lindsey Vonn


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Friday, May 8, 2009

Samuel Johnson's Rasselas: Experience or Books?

Rasselas, son of the King of Abyssinia (Ethiopia), his sister Nekayah, and a philosopher, Imlac, set off on a journey to discover the secret of a happy life.

Best quotes:

Marriage has man pains, but celibacy has no pleasures.

He that has much to do will do something wrong.

I have always considered it as treason against the great republic of human nature, to make any man's virtues the means of deceiving him.

The journey chronicles the failures rather than the triumphs of the human race. Though the author Samuel Johnson was the author of many books, the moral of the story is that a lived life teaches more than books.
The writing techniques I use are explained in Mary Duffy's Toolbox for Writers e-book.

Mary Duffy's Toolbox for Writers


Augustine, City of God
Austen J, Pride and Prejudice
Austen J, "Marriage Proposals and Me"
Austen J, Emma
Borges, The Aleph
C. Bronte, Jane Eyre
Burroughs E,Tarzan
Cervantes, Don Quijote
Chaucer, Wife of Bath
Coelho P,The Alchemist
Coyle H, They Are Soldiers
Dante, New Life
Dickens C, David Copperfield
Dostoevsky, Crime&Punishment
ConanDoyle,Hound of Baskervilles
Dubner S, Superfreakonomics

DuMaurier D, Rebecca
Ellis B. E. American Psycho
Fitzgerald S, Great Gatsby
Flaubert G, Madame Bovary
Fleming I,Doctor No
Freud S, Leonardo Da Vinci
Friedan B, Feminine Mystique
GarciaMarquez, Of Love & OtherDemons
GarciaMarquez,OneHundredYrs
Guerrero M,ThePoison Pill

Grass G, The Tin Drum
Harris T, Hannibal Rising
Heidegger M,House of Being
Ishiguro K, Remains of The Day
Johnson S,Rasselas
Kafka,Metamorphosis
Kosinski J, The Painted Bird
Lee H,To Kill a Mockingbird
McBain Ed,Gutter and Grave
Murakami H,Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
Nabokov V, Lolita
Meyer, S, Twilight
Ortega,Dehumanization of Art
Poe E A, Gordon Pym
Prose F, Reading Like a Writer
Rushdie S,Midnight Children
Sabatini R, Scaramouche
Spark M, Prime of Miss Brodie

Stendhal, Red and Black
Sterne L,Tristram Shandy
Stevenson R, Dr.Jekyll & Mr.Hyde
Stoker B, Dracula
Thackeray W,History of Pendennis
Tolstoy L, Anna Karenina
Trollope A, Autobiography
Unamuno M, Tragic Sense of Life
Voltaire, Candide
Webb J, Fields of Fire
Wharton E, The House of Mirth
Woolf V, To The Lighhouse


The secrets of 'no-doze' prose:
Mary Duffy's Sentence Openers



Lindsey Vonn after winning the Downhill World ...
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Lindsey Vonn


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Voltaire's Candide - Best Quotes

Pangloss:

"best of all possible worlds."

"Ah, best of worlds, what's become of you now?"

"private misfortunes make for public welfare."

"I'm through, I must give up [Pangloss'] optimism after all... It is a mania for saying things are well when one is in hell."

Pangloss embodies Leibniz's philosophical viewpoint of a honky-dory universe. In contrast, both the scholar Martin and Candide develop a pessimistic but pragmatic view of life.

Narrator: After watching the carnage of war in which 30,000 people are killed, the narrator uses an oxymoron to express the insanity of war--"this heroic butchery."
Martin:

"what scales you Pangloss would use to weigh the misfortunes of mankind, and set a value on their sufferings. All that I pretend to know of the matter is that there are millions of men on the earth whose conditions are a hundred times more pitiable than those of King Charles Edward, the Emperor Ivan, or Sultan Achmet."

Candide:

"it is in Eldorado and not in the rest of the world."

"troubles are just the shadows in a beautiful picture."

"all is but illusion and disaster."

"we must [simply] cultivate our garden."

After much idle philosophizing and misery, a simple task such as cultivating a garden wins the day. Francois-Marie Arouet (pen name "Voltaire") was born in Paris 1694, and died in 1778; a man of the Enlightenment.
The writing techniques I use are explained in Mary Duffy's Toolbox for Writers e-book.

Mary Duffy's Toolbox for Writers


Augustine, City of God
Austen J, Pride and Prejudice
Austen J, "Marriage Proposals and Me"
Austen J, Emma
Borges, The Aleph
C. Bronte, Jane Eyre
Burroughs E,Tarzan
Cervantes, Don Quijote
Chaucer, Wife of Bath
Coelho P,The Alchemist
Coyle H, They Are Soldiers
Dante, New Life
Dickens C, David Copperfield
Dostoevsky, Crime&Punishment
ConanDoyle,Hound of Baskervilles
Dubner S, Superfreakonomics

DuMaurier D, Rebecca
Ellis B. E. American Psycho
Fitzgerald S, Great Gatsby
Flaubert G, Madame Bovary
Fleming I,Doctor No
Freud S, Leonardo Da Vinci
Friedan B, Feminine Mystique
GarciaMarquez, Of Love & OtherDemons
GarciaMarquez,OneHundredYrs
Guerrero M,ThePoison Pill

Grass G, The Tin Drum
Harris T, Hannibal Rising
Heidegger M,House of Being
Ishiguro K, Remains of The Day
Johnson S,Rasselas
Kafka,Metamorphosis
Kosinski J, The Painted Bird
Lee H,To Kill a Mockingbird
McBain Ed,Gutter and Grave
Murakami H,Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
Nabokov V, Lolita
Meyer, S, Twilight
Ortega,Dehumanization of Art
Poe E A, Gordon Pym
Prose F, Reading Like a Writer
Rushdie S,Midnight Children
Sabatini R, Scaramouche
Spark M, Prime of Miss Brodie

Stendhal, Red and Black
Sterne L,Tristram Shandy
Stevenson R, Dr.Jekyll & Mr.Hyde
Stoker B, Dracula
Thackeray W,History of Pendennis
Tolstoy L, Anna Karenina
Trollope A, Autobiography
Unamuno M, Tragic Sense of Life
Voltaire, Candide
Webb J, Fields of Fire
Wharton E, The House of Mirth
Woolf V, To The Lighhouse


The secrets of 'no-doze' prose:
Mary Duffy's Sentence Openers



Lindsey Vonn after winning the Downhill World ...
Image via Wikipedia

Lindsey Vonn


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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Anthony Trollope's Quotes from Barchester Towers



There is no royal road to learning; no short cut to the acquirement of any art.

There is no happiness in love, except at the end of an English novel.

There is no way of writing well and also of writing easily.

The end of a novel, like the end of a children's dinner-party, must be made up of
sweetmeats and sugar-plums.

Anthony Trollope (1815-1882), a disciplined writer who arose at 5 am daily to write his self-assigned quota of words. From his Autobiogaraphy: "A small daily task, if it be really daily, will beat the labours of a spasmodic Hercules."
The writing techniques I use are explained in Mary Duffy's Toolbox for Writers e-book.

Mary Duffy's Toolbox for Writers



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Monday, May 4, 2009

Adam Smith on Creating Wealth: The Secret Revealed



In his landmark book The Wealth of Nations, but in particular in the section "Division of Labor," Adam Smith discusses three points:

(1) Humans show a propensity "to truck, barter, and exchange one thing for another." Though smith isn't explicit, he hints that this propensity may well be inherent in humans.
(2) Humans don't differ greatly in natural talents; the difference is caused by habit, custom, and education.
(3) By the division of labor (specialization), humans produce a surplus of product that they can sell to others.

None of the above discussion would have any practical value if one doesn't reduce the discussion to a very simple conclusion:

To satisfy not only your needs, but also to have something leftover to add to wealth, you either sell your labor (skills) or you sell a product, or merge both. The wealth-hungry individual will do both. Adam Smith's most famous quote:
It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our necessities but of their advantage.

is the secret hidden in plain view is: "never talk to them [customers and vendors]of our necessities but of their advantage." Riches will follow you if you make money for those about you.

President Kennedy's famous words: "ask not what your country [customers and vendors] can do for you - ask what you can do for your country [customers and vendors]," is a 20th century version of Adam smith's insight.

The writing techniques I use are explained in Mary Duffy's Toolbox for Writers e-book.

Mary Duffy's Toolbox for Writers



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Friday, May 1, 2009

Oxymoron in Action

Even St. Augustine seizes an oxymoron to illustrate the doctrine of original sin: Felix culpa (“Oh, most fortunate fall”). And when Nicholas of Cusa challenged the rigidity of Scholasticism, he summarized it as learned ignorance, which is also the title of his book, De docta ignorantia . Obviously, this is a masterful use of the oxymoron.

From this discussion we can see that the precise insertion of the oxymoron can shake up the reader (in particular the skeptic, cynic, or irreverent) and as the philosopher Immanuel Kant said, ‘awaken him from his dogmatic slumbers.’ And incidentally, Kant himself in his Critique of Judgment used antinomies—another name for oxymoron—to convey his sense of beauty as ‘purposeful without purpose,’ and ‘a finality without end.’

When Don Quijote returns to his village to die free from his delusion, we learn that he only exchanged one insanity for another; that of becoming a virtuous, amorous shepherd. His friends, “approved his [new] madness as sensible” (Cervantes 932).

The erudite Argentinean writer Jorge Luis Borges delighted in the use of the oxymoron, and his essays and stories are all speckled with numerous examples. Here’s one:
Beatriz was tall, fragile, very slightly stooped; in her walk, there was (if I may be pardoned the oxymoron) something of a graceful clumsiness … (Borges, The Aleph 275).

Ishmael, the narrator of Moby Dick, explores the horror of whiteness by means of the oxymoron: Or is it, that as in essence whiteness is not so much a color as the visible absence of color, and at the same time the concrete of all colors; is it for these reasons that there is such a dumb blankness, full of meaning … (Melville )

As you can see, master writers use this rhetorical figure to great advantage. Remember Henry James’ admonition: the only obligation the writer has is not to be boring. So, use it—to startle, to astonish, and to make the reader think along with you.

Senada Selmani, model

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