Michael Deacon, who has a beard, reviews a London hipster restaurant for the Telegraph. He is 35, and it makes him feel old. Quote unquote:
The lamb was apathetically flavourless, as if tasting of anything were somehow beneath it. It probably shrugged while it was being slaughtered, rolled its eyes while being butchered and browsed Twitter while being cooked. […]
The 22-year-old was happy enough, though, particularly with her smoked tofu. ‘They’ve made tofu interesting,’ she said, with an air of genuine respect. (I know: interesting tofu. Michelin stars have been awarded for less.)
VUP’s Ashleigh Young at The Red Room on editing books. Quote unquote:
There’s this phrase that comes up in publishing: ‘Sometimes you need to save an author from themselves.’ But you can’t every time. Who says they want saving, anyway? It’s a bit like giving someone advice on their dance routine. ‘Don’t do those jazz hands yet! It’s too soon! Do them at the end!’ Some writers will give you a withering look and do their jazz hands more energetically. I’ve had this experience when being edited myself.
The Economist’s A.D. Miller on “American for beginners”:
We were passing the tailgate grill parties and merchandise vendors when the argument began. If my eight-year-old daughter could impersonate a dinosaur in her class play, I reasoned, then for the duration of the “The Star-Spangled Banner” she could pretend to be an American. It would only last a minute or two, and thousands of baseball fans would be watching, plus many more on television, and if the rest of her school choir placed their palms on their chests in loyalty, she should, too.
“But it’s not true for me,” she said, as an Atlanta cop waved us into a parking lot opposite Turner Field. “I don’t believe in it.” She was happy to sing, but she was British, and she would not consecrate someone else’s anthem by putting her hand on her heart. That, for her, would be a lie. Inside the stadium we left her in the mustering area, alongside a marching band in plumed hats and a team of majorettes, and went to find our seats.
You won’t believe what happened next.
In the new Listener (June 18-24), not online yet, Mark Broatch interviews Danyl McLauchlan about his new novel Mysterious Mysteries of the Aro Valley and asks, “It has plenty of goes at the Aro Valley and its people. What’s your beef?” Danyl replies:
You don’t know them like I do. They’ve got it coming.
Tom Freeman, aka Stroppy Editor (@SnoozeInBrief on Twitter), has a good piece on jargon, science/medicine and writing for the public. Quote unquote:
· Scientists use “theory” to mean an explanatory framework, but the public use it to mean a hunch or speculation.
· Scientists use “uncertainty” to mean the range of an estimate, but the public use it to mean ignorance.
· Scientists use “positive trend” to mean an increase and “positive feedback” to mean a vicious circle, but the public use “positive” to mean good.
Paul Anthony Jones advocates the singular “they” which many (older) people will tell you is wrong. He and I think they are. So does the American Dialect Society, which chose as its word of the year the singular they, the use of the third person plural pronoun as a “gender-neutral singular pronoun for a known person, as a non-binary identifier”. Quote unquote:
Most discussions of singular they are quick to point out that its use dates back as far as Chaucer (“And whoso fyndeth hym out of swich blame / They wol come up”). Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, CS Lewis, Henry Fielding, George Bernard Shaw (“It’s enough to drive anyone out of their senses”), Sir Walter Scott, George Orwell and of course Shakespeare (“There’s not a man I meet but doth salute me / As if I were their well-acquainted friend”) all used it too. Hey, even God uses it in the King James Bible. […]
It allows sentences to remain neutral without issues of sexism or discrimination, and with a succinctness and neatness that its alternatives lack.
There is much more on the clumsiness generated by using gendered pronouns in genderless sentences. It’s grammatical “correctness” gone mad.
A brilliant interview by Eleanor Black with Stephen Daisley, winner of this year’s big prize at the Ockham Book Awards. In some quarters there was criticism – muted, never in public, as is the New Zealand way – of a novel set in Australia written by an Australian resident winning the biggest book prize in New Zealand. Whenever I heard this I would ask, “Do you remember who won the 2013 award and for which novel?” No one ever did, which tells you something about awards. I would tell them that it was Kirsty Gunn, who lives in Scotland, with The Big Music, which is set entirely in Scotland. And no one said boo about that.
I did a session with Stephen at the Auckland Writers Festival last month: top bloke, smart and funny, and Coming Rain is a great novel. Quote unquote:
Daisley’s parents Ken and Lal ran the pub at Raetihi, a settlement of 1000 people near Ohakune. “We come out of a very practical heritage and culture,” Daisley explains. “Someone who could shoot a deer or cut an acre of bush was much more valuable than someone who could write a poem. As a result of that you tended to just keep it to yourself a bit.
“We were also raised to never speak about what you do, but to do what you do. I never told my father I wrote. I told my mother when I was in my 20s and she said, ‘Don’t worry dear, you’ll grow out of it’.”