William Rainbolt

From one of my heroes, George Orwell, in "Politics and the English Language" (1946): "(Language) becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts." I will try to avoid contributing to the debasement of language and thought that abounds today.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Moby Dick Is Not All About Whaling, After All

Even in Chapter 32, “Cetology,” we are reminded of a valuable if sometimes frustrating lesson for writers: a piece of writing is never really finished, it is just submitted, or thrown against the wall only to be retrieved and considered again, or rewritten ad infinitum, or whittled at and whittled at and whittled at until the real thing emerges . . . as cliché as it is, yes, more often than not it is all about the journey, not the arrival. From Melville:

“But now I leave my cetological System standing thus unfinished, even as the great Cathedral of Cologne was left, with the crane still standing upon the top of the uncompleted tower. For small erections may be finished by their first architects; grand ones, true ones, ever leave the copestone to posterity. God keep me from ever completing anything. This whole book is but a draught – nay, but the draught of a draught. Oh, Time, Strength, Cash and Patience!”

And for writers, the greatest of these – Time, Strength, Cash, Patience – is . . . ?