prose

The Open Sentence: A Statement Masquerading as a Manifesto

I say this now because as I'm continuing to write my extended, in depth criticism of Atlas Shrugged, there are going to be times when the close reading will require the engagement of aesthetic rather than political or philosophical concerns. As I'm trying to show that it is the worst book ever written, it is necessary to take on not only the bad ideas in the book and the quality of the storytelling, but also the quality of the craftsmanship at the level of the language. In order that people know where I'm coming from, I figured it would be better to lay it all out here in a brief abstract rather than have to constantly re-state things about what I think makes for good and bad writing within each individual piece.

In writing, where the content is not primarily concerned with the communications of facts or criticism of some form whether it be literal or cultural—that is to say, where it is not political/philosophical treatise, some sort of non-fiction, or the interpretation of other work—I take to be primitive several statements by Ludwig Wittgenstein. Among them:

"Philosophy ought to be written only as a form of poetry."

"What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence."

"What can be shewn cannot be said."

"There are, indeed, things that cannot be put into words. They make themselves manifest. They are what is mystical."

"We have got onto slippery ice where there is no friction and so in a certain sense conditions are ideal, but also, because of that, we are unable to walk. We want to walk, therefore we need friction. Back to the rough ground."

"If a lion could speak, we could not understand him."

"In a large number of cases, though not for all, the meaning of a word is it's use in a language-game."

John Hodgmania

John Hodgman, in between being the "PC" in those Apple ads and his work on The Daily Show, is promoting the paperback of his book The Areas of My Expertise, which book I would probably praise, had I read it. To this end, Hodgman has put this video up on Amazon, which is damn funny, and created this magazine ad, which is a parody of this obscure George Plimpton ad for Itellivision from the 80's. The original ad, the fact of the parody and the parody itself are all three quite funny. A little less funny, but more poignant, is this address that Hodgman gave to a literary reading just after 9/11, published on McSweeney's in honor of the fifth anniversary last week.

Bonus: Also from McSweeney's, somewhat surreal new Mac ad ideas. (Remember, John Hodgman is the "PC Guy.")