Thursday, April 17, 2008


I love this juxtaposition of quotes over at the Ouroboric Erasing:

Borges, talking to the Paris Review, 1967:

You know, English is a beautiful language, but the older languages are even more beautiful: they had vowels. Vowels in modern English have lost their value, their color. My hope for English — for the English language — is America. Americans speak clearly. When I go to the movies now, I can’t see much, but in the American movies, I understand every word.

Lorrie Moore, mercilessly, in her short story “How to Become a Writer”:

Insist you are not very interested in any one subject at all, that you are interested in the music of language, that you are interested in — in — syllables, because they are the atoms of poetry, the cells of the mind, the breath of the soul. Begin to feel woozy. Stare into your plastic wine cup.

“Syllables?” you will hear someone ask, voice trailing off, as they glide slowly toward the reassuring white of the dip.

Can I add two from my personal stash?

Clem came from Buffalo and spoke in the neutral American accent that sends dictionary makers there. His pronunciation was clear and colorless.
—John Updike, "I Am Dying, Egypt, Dying"

Could mortal lip divine
The undeveloped Freight
Of a delivered syllable
'Twould crumble with the weight.
—Emily Dickinson

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Blogger Scott said...

Great additions! The Dickinson lines are killer. If I had a band, I'd name it The Delivered Syllable.

Re the Updike: I kind of noticed a non-neutral-sounding, non-colorless local accent when I lived in Buffalo ... most notably people's tendency to slightly Fargo-ize the sound "ahr", e.g. "tomorrow" would seem to rhyme with "marrow". Was I hearing things?

11:57 AM  

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