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Zer Netmouse
October 27th, 2004
07:27 am


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new reading
I went poking around the Dawn Treader last night, looking for a book on publishing that's recommended on the Tor website. I didn't find it, but I did bring home a couple books of essays that are intriguing. One is Ray Bradbury's Zen and the Art of Writing and the other is Less than Words Can Say, by Richard Mitchell, the underground grammarian.

Here is an extended quote from the Introduction to Less than Words Can Say that will give you a sense of it, I think. [He's talking about a questionaire that a colleague had given him, wherein he observed a truly Evil use of language.]

Words never fail. We hear them, we read them; they enter into the mind and become part of us for as long as we shall live. Who speaks reason to his fellow men bestows it upon them. Who mouths inanity disorders thought for all who listen. [...]

This man had offered me inanity. I had almost seized it. If I told you that this little book would provide you with general insight into the knowledge of a discipline, would you read on? If so, then you had better read on, for you are in danger. People all around you are offering inanity, and you are ready to seize it, like any well-behaved American consumer dutifully swallowing the best advertised pill. You are, in a certain sense, unconscious.

Language is the Medium in which we are conscious. The speechless beasts are aware, but they are not conscious. To be conscious is to "know with" something, and a language of some sort is the device with which we know. More precisely, it is the device with which we can know. We don't have to. We can, if we please, speak of general insight into the knowledge of a discipline and forgo knowing.

Consciousness has degrees. We can be wide awake or sound asleep. We can be anesthetized. He is not fully conscious who can speak lightly of such things as basic appreciations and general insights into the knowledge of a discipline. He wanders in the twilight sleep of knowing where insubstantial words, hazy and disembodied, have fled utterly from things and ideas. His is an attractive world, dreamy and undemanding, a Lotus-land of dozing addicts. They blow a little smoke our way. It smells good. Suddenly and happily we realize that our creative capacities and understanding yearn after basic appreciations and general insights. We nod, we drowse, we fall asleep.

I am trying to stay awake.

(3 comments | Leave a comment)

[User Picture]
Date:October 27th, 2004 05:56 pm (UTC)
That is fascinating. Is this a description of the Evil use of language in the questionnaire?
[User Picture]
Date:October 27th, 2004 11:13 pm (UTC)
That is fascinating. Is this a description of the Evil use of language in the questionnaire?

Kind of. I fear my intro to the quote might have distracted from the content of the quote itself.
[User Picture]
Date:October 28th, 2004 03:40 pm (UTC)
There appears to be an online version of the book. I don't know if it's complete, but a cursory look indicates that it is.
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