Sunday, August 08, 2004

Rules And Reading 

I've so far missed all but one of the repeat episodes of The Book Group. In the episode I saw again, Kenny read from Jack Kerouac's Rules of Spontaneous Prose. The rules include "Dont think of words when you stop but to see picture better" and "Keep track of every day the date emblazoned in yr morning." Three nights in a row I've come to write in my journal and expected to date it the twenty-something of August, so this emblazoning business is probably something I should work on.

Another rule is to "Remove literary, grammatical and syntactical inhibition." Any time I try this my pen strokes become deep zigzags in the page.

Soon after reading Kerouac's rules, I read 'Easy on the Adverbs, Exclamation Points and Especially Hooptedoodle' by Elmore Leonard (at his site but copyright The New York Times 2003). One of his suggestions is to:


Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.

A rule that came to mind in 1983. Think of what you skip reading a novel: thick paragraphs of prose you can see have too many words in them. What the writer is doing, he's writing, perpetrating hooptedoodle, perhaps taking another shot at the weather, or has gone into the character's head, and the reader either knows what the guy's thinking or doesn't care. I'll bet you don't skip dialogue.


People skip bits? I thought that either you read a book, or you read most of a book and didn't have time to read all of it, or you didn't read a book. Somehow, skipping bits never occurred to me.

So for our last book group meeting, I skim read The Pursuit of Happiness. I read the beginning, the end and all of the character and plot developments that I thought would be worthy of discussion. I even skipped dialogue. And it worked.

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