In which I get found out

August 9, 2010 by · 7 Comments 

The ever-vigilant Nathan Whitlock pointed out that my essay “Fuck Books,” which appeared in Canadian Notes & Queries more than a year ago, but has been given new life thanks to a mention in a Maclean’s blog post by Paul Wells, has been tapped for Geist magazine’s Findings section. The folks at Geist have lovingly combed through the essay, in which I complain about the, er, high-falutin’ stylistic shenanigans perpetrated by CanLit icons Michael Ondaatje and Anne Michaels, and have extracted a list of high-falutin’ stylistic shenanigans perpetrated by yr. humble correspondent in the course of making his argument.

This is actually pretty funny, and echoes a comment made by Britt Gullick in a post over at Pickle Me This. Now, Whitlock (who really should have trademarked the term “fuck books”) always advises me, “If two or more people tell you you’re drunk, it’s time to sit down.” And so, I must admit that there is a certain irony in using frankly elevated language to critique the elevated writing of others. All I would say in my defence is that nowhere in the essay do I suggest that I am against the deployment of big words. What I’m against is the inappropriate deployment of big words: their use in an ineffective context, a condescending manner, or as a veil to disguise the fact that a writer has little of substance to say.

I’d also point out that the phrase “the oatmeal of world literature” isn’t mine, it’s Stephen Marche’s. But it’s still a good line.