Wednesday, February 26, 2014


Some years ago, when Boris Gasparov was teaching a course on medieval Russian narrative, he called our attention to something curious in one of the very earliest examples of literary prose in Russian.  Maybe it was the "Life of the Archpriest Avvakum," maybe something older, I dunno because I sold my 12-volume set of medieval Russian stuff to some Princeton graduate student when we moved from Wilton St to Linden Lane back in 2003.

Anyway, it was way back there.  And what Gasparov pointed out was this:  in the narrative, events were conjoined almost exclusively with the word "and".  What this indicated was that the author wasn't used to narrating things sequentially, that the very act of telling a story was uncomfortable, which makes sense when you think about moving from a literary style conducted exclusively in verse, which permits and downright encourages looping back and deviating from sequence, to one in prose. That kinda blew my mind.

But when I blog, I find myself overusing the word "and" a lot. On good days, in the morning in particular, thoughts just flow out of me naturally and seem to be naturally related, so it makes all the sense in the world to me to tie them together with a bunch of "ands". But the writerly way is not to overuse any given word, for example, the word "and." Moreover, often the "andness" of the connection between the thoughts I'm tying together is resident exclusively in my mind, and what I really need to do is go back and tie things up for the reader in a more considerate fashion. In a sense, I need to go back and clarify what it is I mean when a say "and", perhaps much as Clinton needed to clarify the meaning of the word "is.":

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