The Roots of it All


This series of reposts/posts started partly because someone in Sarah’s Diner, on FB asked me what was Portuguese about my writing.  Which set me thinking.

Years ago, I’d have said “my writing tends to be more poetic than average.”  Only I’m not sure that’s true anymore, or at least not in most circumstances. I have fought it pretty hard the last several years, mostly because unless it’s a certain type of writing (say, involving Shakespeare and fairies, for instance) it gets in the way of readers experiencing the story. If you stop and marvel at the words, you’re not following, much less living the action.

And yeah, the poetic thing is absolutely a Portuguese survival.  Not only because Portuguese as a language approaches meaning in spirals and therefore is more suited to poetry than to any other type of writing, but because Portuguese culture emphasizes and favors (makes heroes of) poets.

It is said that every Portuguese has a poetry book in his drawer (written by himself)and I used to doubt it but not anymore.

What’s truly amazing is reading history books written in Portuguese and seeing all the extra words added to a sentence to “make the rhythm work” even though the book is non fiction, factual, and the added words add nothing.  Heck, sometimes there are subsidiary phrases that make no sense, but are there to add the rhythm and the feel. Which to a now thoroughly accultured mind reads really odd, let me tell you.

Now, Charlie Martin, who occasionally edits me, says that my writing still has a Latin Rhythm (please, make it not be the Girl From Ipanema) and I can sort of buy that, at least when I’m writing off the cuff and letting myself go.  Perhaps like the accent in speaking it is something trained in so early that you cannot lose it, no matter how you try.

I know it’s given people very odd ideas of who I am and what my ambitions in the field are, probably from the beginning.  People have thought that I aspired to be Faulkner, when in fact I can’t even read Faulkner without getting impatient, and people — by which I mean NYC publishers and agents — have assumed I aspired to or was best suited to literary fantasy and then were horribly disappointed I wanted to write “Space Opera trash.”

Eh. Indie makes that not a big deal, though there must be something still remaining, considering I often get praised for “beautiful language” on something I wrote while sick or sleepy and which I only gave a cursory look to to kill typos after.

So, that’s possible. Something of a penumbra of Latin might remain on my word choice and rhythm, though I’d argue it’s grown much fainter or at least much more controllable over the last 20 years.

But that was not what the person asking wanted to know.  They wanted to know what ur-story, what trained in bit of thought came along for a ride in my plots and character creation, which would never have been there if I hadn’t spent my first 22 years in Portugal and hadn’t spoken Portuguese almost exclusively for the first 14 of those.

It’s a fair question, but one which, like almost everything in life, is far more complicated to answer than it might seem at first glance.

Because your early training in infancy is everything from legends to lullabies, from the environment you grew up in, to the the unspoken assumptions of your relatives.

Now, I am perhaps more conscious of those than most people, having had to deconstruct them as part of my attempt to acculturate.  But how far does the unraveling go? How far the root?

I don’t know if this is of any interest to anyone but myself — feel free to tell me to shut up — but if anyone else wants to follow along tomorrow we’ll look at “A sense of history” which is definitely different than if I’d grown up in the US and which arguably influences everything, including future history.



130 thoughts on “The Roots of it All

  1. Hey! Don’t stop here!! It was getting interesting!!! 😉

    1. It is complete enough, and I think might be what she has the time budget for.

      1. It’s good as a single post, but I would hate for her to think we didn’t want her to continue the series. 😀

        1. Yes, but I think he doing it like this, where what used to be a single day post spreads over five or six, is a good answer to her question before the trip on the future.

          I think it might also help with the marketing aspect of the blog as well.

          1. And, incidentally, if she loses the thread of thought– that is what Blast from the Past is for.

            You re-post the first half AFTER you’ve written the next chunk, and boom, two days!

            It works here because a lot of the appeal is the comment section anyways, which is the sort that will grab comments and run with it.

  2. As to the words over story part, I often give a raspberry to those who like to collect best opening lines lists. No matter how wonderful an opening sentence might seem in retrospect, it does very little to give you an inkling of the story. And story, not words, is the basic unit of fiction. I prefer an opening page or so as the unit to judge a novel by. I often use Zelazny’s Home is the Hangman as an example. You might be able to capture my curiosity in a single sentence but no one I know can give an emotional hook in a single sentence.

    1. Eh, some of them are simply glee-inducing. The real test is if they manage to live up to it or not.

      “In a hole in the ground, there lived a hobbit.”

      If the story hadn’t lived up to it, that would be a nothing burger.

    2. I can’t agree with that. There are a number of ways I assess a new author to see if I want to read them, but one of the big ones is just to look at the opening page or two and see if the voice captures me. It’s pretty successful as a predictor. There’s also the contrary case, when I only have to read a page or two to decide that I’m not willing to subject myself to that kind of prose. . . .

      1. Actually Bill, you and I are in agreement then. My comment was only on those who obsess over opening lines. The first 2 pages of An Excess of Enchantments was enough to get me to read the whole trilogy. Much as I might admire the first line of 100 Years of Solitude, it’s never tempted me to read the book. I can certainly admire the skill of the translator though.

        1. Then there are those opening lines which are truly marvelous but which nobody “gets” these days. I’d wager not one in a thousand understands the brilliance of “Call me Ishmael” these days.

          I’ve argued for thirty, forty years that a true study of American literature is no longer possible because the first two great work in that vein either cannot be read and discussed (Huck Finn) as a result of contemporary taboo or cannot be understood because ignorance of The Bible renders such character names as Ishmael and Ahab incomprehensible.

          The greatest damage of ignorance is making people think they understand that which they do not.

          1. There is no doubt the legal quests to kill teaching the Bible as literature (up to claiming that using the KJV constituted establishment because it taught a particular style of Christianity…my answer is Eastern Orthodox, because that was the authorized translation for at least some Orthodox in the US until recently and still is for the NT) has stolen the broad literary heritage of the American people.

            Ishmael does carry a very specific weight, and a different one than it will for a reader whose literary and cultural heritage is Muslim, for example. But as does Ahab, whose name might be better symbolism.

            But it goes well beyond just Moby Dick. How does one understand much of To Kill a Mockingbird or even Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption without a working knowledge of the New Testament? Not only is Andy Dufresne a Christ figure but several (maybe all) of his notable acts inside the prison map to the Gospels.

            But how many people watch the movie and realize that, despite a very visual representation of it at the end of the escape.

          2. The Bible, yes, and I think probably Greek Myth as well. At least for literature and culture of a certain time, anyone educated at all would have understood the same set of references. Almost like memes except less transitory.

    3. “Once upon a time, when the world was young, there was a Martian named Smith.”

      Not an opening line, but still … “For the end of the world was long ago,/And all we dwell today/As children of some second birth …” . Hunt it down, and read, in the last chapter, the prophecy of the King. Tell me the author didn’t nail it, good and hard.

    4. I cannot agree totally. In example, Heinlein’s “The Number of the Beast” started with “He’s a mad scientist and I’m his beautiful daughter.”. My reaction to that was “Oh my God he didn’t. This is going to be great!”. OK Heinlein’s name pretty much guaranteed greatness, but still.

  3. I hesitate to attribute any particular “flavour” in writing to national origin slash culture. America is, despite what the Little Proggies squeal, a melting pot, and stories are one of the prime ingredients in the stock. Imagery, iconography, approaches and dismounts of stories seem to cross-pollinate more aggressively than Bradford Pear trees, and while there may be distinctive regional* American styles of story-telling out cultural mix swiftly lifts any element from anywhere in the pursuit of telling a story well.

    *Regional in origin; many folk have utilized the New England Style or the LA Style without ever coming within spitting distance of those regions.

  4. When I was a geographer, I studied the roots of creativity in geography. After much research, I concluded that the experience of and exposure to multiple cultures played a crucial role in creativity. There was actually scholarly research on creativity by Frank Baron (IIRC) at Berkeley that backed this thesis up. He brought in dozens of architects to study creativity in depth (a group of architects acclaimed for their creativity and a control group of ordinary architects). Among his other observations, he noted that the highly creative ones had childhoods where they moved around a lot. He noted it but didn’t know what to make of it.

    My own research showed that award winning writers (up to 1970 when awards still meant something) came from large cities in inverse proportion to the population of the country at the time. Some of this is that large cities such as New York City offer easy exposure to different cultures–Jewish, Chinese, Italian, and Irish neighborhoods not many blocks away from each other. Some was explained by writers moving to the cities–Bradbury may have been born in Waukegan, but by the time he was 10, he was in LA and haunting the Hollywood studios.

    For many writers especially during WWII, the military provided the alien culture exposure as it did for Herman Wouk and Neil Simon. If you think about creativity, this makes sense and is part of the repulsion I have for the evil wielders of the “cultural appropriation” cudgel. My they all be struck dumb, or should I say mute since they’re already afflicted by the former in one sense of the word.

    1. A very valid point, with regard to military service – I certainly got a heck of an introduction to various sub-cultures on the American scene, through Air Force service.

      1. American sub-cultures are significantly different and in ways that almost make the bigger differences with foreign cultures seem easier.

        There’s always people who don’t even notice, though, and just carry on. (And sometimes they get along better for it, too).

        I think that a person has to be the sort that *notices* for it to have a lot of effect on creativity.

    2. When I moved to “Dutch country” in the upper Midwest… It was like living in Germany again, and not entirely in a good way. Totally different culture.

    3. That makes sense– “creativity” can be rephrased as finding unexpected uses for what you’ve got at hand, and if you like thing A but area Z doesn’t have it, you’ll use thing B, and when THAT doesn’t work you’ll twitch it so that it results in thing Y, which is “thing A made with B and then twitched to work.”

      See also, food. I freaking HATE the whole “oh, this isn’t authentic, it’s made with stuff not available at the original place.”
      Well, no kidding, dummy. It’s what people who were trying to make stuff they liked with what was on had made. Food-from-Asian-immigrants’-recipes sure seems more authentic than “stuff made out of stuff in Asia.”

      1. Never mind that it’s not uncommon to find authentic food recipes that include ingredients that were originally non-native to that part of the world.

          1. I often wonder what the good people of Szechuan ate before peppers were fetched from the Western hemi.

            But, given the title of this post, potatoes win as being a root crop.

            1. Pepper, probably. There’s a reason why red peppers have the same name as black pepper.

        1. Or, more timely, the three cans of tomatoes in my Lazy Lasagna. (uses frozen cheese ravioli instead of noodles and ricotta)

        2. Slightly related, got to reading various
          “chicken alfredo is totally not Italian food”

          My take-away…not a one I could find was Italian, and dude: Italians have white sauce with parmesan, chicken, and noodles. I don’t give a flip what they call it, they have what WE would call “chicken alfredo,” and it doesn’t involve any elaborate “oh it’s noodles with butter in it!” thing.

          Sort of like various Asian groups that make food that is “meat with local sauce on noodles” will HAVE that sauce on noodles with that meat, but might not use a special name for it. IT would be like saying “French fries with vinegar tomato sauce.”

            1. Now, you want to talk about a series to watch to learn character arcs, with G’kar and Londo front and center.

              Also, how to show a spoiler in the first episode and still completely surprise the audience when it happens.

      2. As Ghenghiz Cohen noted to Rincewind, the reason a lot of cultures make amazing dishes out of pig whiskers is because someone pinches the pig. Then immigrants get to the USA, and find they can actually get real, non-spoiled meat and other actually fresh ingredients that don’t require a whole days cooking to make edible- and “Americanized” food is born.

        1. Irish, here.

          I still get a giggle– my mom won’t eat Spam, that’s what poor people ate. (what she ate growing up poor)
          My mom’s mom wouldn’t eat corned beef, that’s what poor people ate. (she grew up eating, when they were poor)
          HER mom wouldn’t cook cabbage, because that is what the grew up eating, eating poor.

          (I’m supposed to not eat chicken, but…we didn’t really grow up eating ‘poor.’ And I like dark meat chicken. But I hate garbanzos, does that count?)

          1. I usually think of Spam as “second day camping breakfast meat”. Had a co-worker who hailed from Maui, and Spam was a staple. OTOH, comfort food was “Portagee sausage, Rice and Eggs”.

            1. Hawaiian/Japanese cooking.

              Totally drooling at the thought of sliced spam with egg…and dang it tomorrow is Friday, no carne…..

  5. So as to the melting pot, I note the “whiteshift” item over at Insty this morning, wherein that pie-slice category here in the US keeps getting expanded to include all the acculturated who were formerly excluded, so over time the Catholic and Orthodox and Jewish people were separate and distinct but subsequently have become included. And now asians are getting added in to that category by those doing the whole higher education racial pie-splitting thing because the asians are successful.

    So where we are at is only the folks who won’t join don’t get included.

    Last night I saw a news item from a SF station (KPIX at reflecting on an article ragging on SF for various transgressions, and one of the chamber of commerce-types they talk with notes SF is less than half caucasian and 40% asian – so basically according to modern racial grievance math SF is something like just under 90% “white”.

    Certainly Sarah coming from a society with only a few hundred years since the last full change-of-management invasion, with multiple such prior over millennia, and then moving to and acculturating into a very different society that is basically a massive and successful acculturation engine in spite of all the recent attempts to divide and balkanize, has to uniquely inform her writing.

    I certainly think she should continue talking about this – maybe one such a week to stretch out the topic?

    1. Don’t forget the up-and-coming “white Hispanic” category, which does not refer to European Hispanics.

      Here’s a Wikipedia page on what “white” meant as far as various US Census specifications. It looks like State’s racial definitions changed for almost every census… it also says that in 2000:

      “The federal government of the United States has mandated that “in data collection and presentation, federal agencies are required to use a minimum of two ethnicities: “Hispanic or Latino” and “Not Hispanic or Latino”.[27]”

      Which answers my question as to why that tickbox was added to Form 4473 when it clearly has no purpose in implementing any of the duties of the BATF…

      I note that with all their classifications the Fed still lacks one for “don’t know.”

      1. the Fed still lacks one for “don’t know.”
        More importantly, it lacks one for “I don’t care.”

        1. The last time I filled out a census, I checked the “other” box and wrote in “Human”.

          I’ve considered “NYDB”. Maybe for 2020.

      2. And then the thing with a black (or other low-albedo designator) person being told by alleged peers not to “talk white” (i.e. have competence in Standard English communication) etc. shows that ‘whiteness’ isn’t really a matter of coloration.

        1. Speaking of, what annoys me to no end is the word “Anglo.” I’m not, never have been, will never be, “Anglo”. Nothing against Anglo people, but speaking English isn’t a *race*.

    2. “SF is less than half caucasian and 40% asian – so basically according to modern racial grievance math SF is something like just under 90% “white”.”

      And does anyone think George Takei is going to agree with that? That he’s “white”?

      1. Like he has any say in the matter?

        He’s in California, he can still “identify” as Japanese…

    3. So where we are at is only the folks who won’t join don’t get included.

      I’m not so sure. I think a case can be made that blacks descended from people here prior to 1970 were purposefully held off and discouraged from assimilating. I also think that was more true outside of the old CSA than inside it (the border states being more CSA like) as blacks had a place in those cultures (not a good one, but still a place) and thus were more likely to be assimilated as time passed.

      In the 1970s we had a brief period where those who remembered segregation joined with non-blacks wanting assimilation (ie, integration) and tried to force the work of a generation or two in less than a decade. Non-blacks backlashed on some of the big pushes (bussing) and an up and coming generation of blacks, who never experienced “separate but equal” are now demanding separate but equal. A large number of black leaders, including at least one nomination integrationist (Jackson) have been pushing separatism over assimilation my entire adult life.

      You can say they won’t join and be technically correct, but I think it is much more complex than that.

      1. . Non-blacks backlashed on some of the big pushes (bussing)

        For anybody who is thinking “how racist!” or similar– my mom got caught in THAT chunk of insane immorality.

        Resulted in her riding a bus for over an hour, every day, so that she could be “integrated” into… a high school that was also mostly UK-and-Ireland based. She was a teen in rural Oregon. First time she ever SAW a black guy, he was at a state-wide track meet, and per her memory he was a freaking ebony Adonis. She also remembers the first time she saw a black lady, short version is the rich lady mom’s mom sometimes was a Companion for was a polite idiot. (It was at a Lady’s Club, and the gal canceled her membership because there was a lady with ‘chocolate skin’ there. Mom was probably no more than five, or she would’ve been in school, and the dark lady was very forgiving of a little girl being semicoherent about it. Or at least she was a lady, hard to tell. Was in Klamath Falls in the early 60s at the latest. )

      2. It is definitely much more complex than that.

        American whiteness is an artifact of two things. One being that immigrants retain the oral history in their own memory, but what gets passed down to the kids is not what would have been passed down in the old country. Second that individualism was a functional adaptation to very fine mixtures of population, that permitted relative peace via approximation of common values.

        Historically speaking, white American populations haven’t had a profound betrayal that impeached the plausibility of that peace permitting consensus. It isn’t really in the white oral history. White oral history that talks about it produces people who suspect all authority, and want to minimize the entities that have the ability to pull such things off. Libertarians essentially.

        Blacks were formally party to the deal with the passage of those amendments after the ACW. Well, because of an extended hissy fit certain people did not consider those valid additions to the deal, and did not honor them. Black oral history has absolutely legitimate reasons to be skeptical of whether or not whites consider themselves bound by the terms of the deal. “First they came for the druggies, but I did nothing because I was not a druggie” has got to seem suicidally risky. If you have a poor population, which isn’t willing or able to quietly murder petty thieving druggies or drunks, the thieving will keep it poor, keep saving behaviors from making sense. If you take the results of that as more evidence that whites have no interest in following through on the terms of the official deal, what incentive is there to continue trying to make it work?

        There is an attempt at building between ‘minorities’ a version of the peace consensus, but it doesn’t work very well because it runs on intersectionalism and handouts. As opposed to individualism, and lack of interest in the business of others. In particular, it seems that some flavors of minorities are willing to exterminate other flavors.

        1. Instapundit today took note of a Michael Barone column from a couple weeks back:

          Will ‘whiteshift’ save America from ethnic strife?
          by Michael Barone | May 15, 2019
          If you’ve been paying any attention at all to journalism in recent years — maybe not a good idea, but if you have — you surely have noticed those stories predicting, often with a certain relish, that the United States is about to become a majority-minority country.

          Such predictions, as the Obama administration Census Bureau director noted in 2015, “made demographic change look like a zero-sum game that white Americans were losing.” Such fears may have contributed to Donald Trump’s election the following year. No one wants to vote for the side that seems to be saying, “Hurry up and die.”

          But are those trends so inevitable? Not necessarily, writes political scientist Eric Kaufmann, a Canadian who teaches in Britain and is of Jewish, Chinese, and Latino ancestry. His most recent book is called Whiteshift, which he defines as “the mixture of many non-whites into the white group through voluntary assimilation.”

          As he points out, something like this has happened before. A hundred years ago, Catholic, Orthodox, and Jewish immigrants pouring into Ellis Island were considered to be of different “races” by white Anglo-Saxon Protestant elites.

          Half a century ago, their descendants were regarded as still culturally and politically distinctive in Nathan Glazer and Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s description of New York ethnics groups, Beyond the Melting Pot. A “balanced” ticket in those days had to include Irish, Italian, and Jewish candidates.

          Today, all these groups are lumped together as “whites,” even though there are still perceptible, though muted, differences in political attitudes and perspectives between those with different ancestries.

          One might go even further back in history. American political culture and institutions have their roots, as the late political scientist Samuel Huntington argued in Who Are We?, in England. In the seventeenth century, unlike almost all other European polities, England welcomed Jews and Huguenots, tolerated Catholics and Quakers, nurtured representative government, and protected individual rights.

          That’s a template for an expandable polity — one that gives us and other Anglosphere nations a useful model as we experience ethnic change.

          In the short run, things can seem rocky. …


          The fourth response is what Kaufmann thinks will be decisive in the long run (50 to 80 years) — intermarriage, which “promises to erode the rising diversity which underlies our current malaise.” He notes that Hispanic-white intermarriage rates are high. And it’s been a championship season for part-Asian Americans, from Tiger Woods to (as blogger Steve Sailer points out) Jeopardy whiz James Holzhauer.

          Intermarriage rates for American blacks remain considerably lower, which raises, in my mind at least, the question of whether people of Hispanic or Asian “race” should have been given the panoply of racial quotas and preferences accorded blacks by the Nixon and Reagan administrations. Yes, you can find limited examples of systematic racial discrimination against Latinos near the southern border in the past and, yes, there was the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and Theodore Roosevelt blocking Japanese inflow to Hawaii in 1907. But Hispanics never experienced slavery here or anything like the legally and violently enforced segregation of blacks in the Old South. And the only invidious discrimination Asians have suffered in the last half-century, so far as I can discern, is at the hands of Ivy League and other selective college admissions officers.

          Will Kaufmann’s optimistic “whiteshift” scenario ever happen? The current political brouhaha is discouraging, but our history provides grounds for cautious optimism.

          1. Barone has long been a student of the effects of Demographics on American life and has previously compared the present day adaptive strategies of Blacks and Hispanics to those used a century ago by, respectively, Irish and Italians. One strategy is to pursue political power as a lever for social parity (Irish and African-Americans both sought disproportionate levels of government employment as a solution to oppression) while the alternate is economic power as a means to social parity (Italians and Hispanics.)

            See: The New Americans: How the Melting Pot can work Again
            “Michael Barone’s study reveals startling similarities between the old and new ethnic waves. Barone pairs the Irish with the blacks, Italians with Latinos, and Jews with Asians to demonstrate that “we’ve been here before.” Recent immigration is a déjà vu of the earlier folks who came to America, repeating previous cultural and economic patterns. While acknowledging differences between the linked pairs and variation within groups such as Latinos, there are nevertheless common patterns of culture and history. …

            “… Barone not only paints a hopeful picture of the assimilation of immigrants into the America they came to for freedom and economic opportunity, but also shows that the American spirit has overcome prejudices. This is an excellent book both for information on the sociology of immigrants and for the policy implication that we need not fear any loss of American cohesion even with large amounts of immigration.”

    4. So where we are at is only the folks who won’t join don’t get included.

      Oh, that’s not terrifying and a terrible idea or anything.

  6. Typos? What typos?
    Prose flows from your fingers through the keyboard onto the printed page, perfect in every aspect.
    And having edited some of your work I am most proud that I was able to write that without quite doubling over in laughter.
    Admittedly, the worst of the lot were rights recovery documents that suffered from a conversion from an obsolete word processor file format.

  7. Could be worse. “The Girl from Ipanima” is a lot better than people hearing “Guantanamera” or “Deguello” in your writing. (Although ‘Deguello” does appear from time to time, but not enough to bother this naturalized Texan.)

      1. One of the funniest/scariest sights I ever saw was a bunch of Japanese tourists on Saipan doing attempting the Macarena.

        1. I still wake from nightmares engendered by seeing it performed en masse at the 1996 Democrat Convention. *shudder* it wasn’t bad enough seeing Bill and Hillary and Al and Tipper doing it, they had the assembled delegates “dancing” it … on national TV!

          1. 1972 … with a song whose lyrics remain transgressive, if for different reasons. It no longer seems kinky to describe a transexual turning tricks …

            … but the reference to “colored girls”

            And the colored girls go doo-doo-doo, doo-doo
            Doo-doo-doo, doo, doo-doo, doo-doo
            Doo-doo-doo, doo, doo-doo, doo-doo
            Doo-doo-doo, doo, doo-doo, doo-doo
            Doo-doo-doo (doo, doo-doo, doo-doo
            Doo-doo-doo, doo, doo-doo, doo-doo
            Doo-doo-doo, doo, doo-doo, doo-doo
            Doo-doo-doo, doo, doo-doo, doo-doo
            Doo-doo-doo, dooh)

            could cause riots.

            Still one of the all-time great rock saxophone riffs.

          2. And The Kinks…

            “Well, I’m not dumb but I can’t understand
            Why she walks like a woman and talks like a man
            Oh my Lola…”

      1. The variant with which I am most familiar goes:

        Drunk in a meadow
        Oh! I am drunk in a meadow.
        Drunk in a meadow, drunk in a meaaaado-o-o-oh

    1. Did she have to mention that song, though?

      White male Mormon, but with a great rack,
      Beautiful Evil Space Princess goes writing
      And when she writes each character she writes goes “Ah”.

      I’m sure others can come up with better. If they dare.

      *watches the sky for incoming carp*

    2. Was not sure what deguello is, but then at times I hear the trumpet/guitar from The Alamo. The movie did not even attempt historic accuracy, but that trumpet is haunting, which Sara’s writing can be.

  8. “A sense of history.” I wonder if my training as an environmental historian might mimic that a little. Those in my field can’t look at rivers, dirt, trees, beaches, marshes, without wondering what they looked like “back then,” even back to the paleolithic. “Deep-time” becomes a basic part of our mental framework, no matter what our official focus is supposed to be. *shrug* Probably still more of a veneer than bone-deep like someone from the Old World has.

    1. Or if you take an archeology class from any kind of landscape guy, all of a sudden the landscape features start popping out at you.

      (Which is great for being dragged around battlefields by your dad, but also a bit disconcerting when you have been dragged around all your life but never could “see” this stuff before. And I still can’t “see” it in Time Team eps, because the UK all looks weird.)

  9. Heck, sometimes there are subsidiary phrases that make no sense, but are there to add the rhythm and the feel.

    A number of years back I read a theory claiming that the reason the Irish inject so much profanity into their English speaking is the words and phrases serve to fit the English into the rhythms of their native Gaelic. It had a logical appeal but I’ve seen little since to support it (which means little as I do not generally read in such areas as would debate such a thesis) and one should not discard the alternative idea that it is the natural reaction of a conquered people’s being forced to speak with their oppressor’s tongue.

    1. No, it is because Gaelic does not have those words, and it is fun.

      But the Irish still do not want to say the words “yes” or “no.” I mean, there is foul language, and then there is truly offensive language — being direct!

      1. “For the great Gaels of Ireland are the men that God made mad/For all their wars are merry and all their songs are sad.”

        1. In one of my books, I had a character (a terribly ambivalent and mysterious Irishman) remark, as he and his companions observed a hanging in Gold-rush era California:
          “No last words,” O’Malley noted with mild regret. “I suppose it is because he is not a poet of an Irishman. All our love-songs are sad and all our last words are noble. “

          1. You bring to mind a passage in McCullough’s new history of the Northwest Territory, in the context of describing a series of horrendous events — the 1782 massacre by Whites of some ninety-six Delaware, kneeling and singing hymns, followed shortly thereafter by vengeful Delaware at Upper Sandusky who:

            stripped naked, tortured, cut off the ears, burned while still alive, and scalped

            an American officer (Col. William Crawford.)

            Delaware justice demanded a life for a life be taken, but they would give an enemy an opportunity to die well and honor his family during ritual torture.

            Needless to say, this generosity went unappreciated by White Americans.

            Dying well is something less appreciated than once it was.

            1. Is that Gnadenhutten? Yup, nothing like massacring a bunch of peaceful Moravians.

              There is a nice historical site there. It is a beautiful and peaceful place.

              That said, Tecumseh really had no business bringing it up later, because his own brother, The Prophet, burned a load of peaceful Christian Wyandots at the stake, as witches. (Which was why the non-Christian Wyandots were not joiners of Tecumseh’s pan-Indian movement and his brother’s new religion.

      2. I am reminded of a radio convers- monologue that went into the history of a particular technology and lasted a solid 20 minutes (we joked this fellow had a Push-To-Listen microphone). The problem was that that full 20 minutes could have been replaced with the single word, “no.”

  10. If you stop and marvel at the words, you’re not following, much less living the action.

    Out, out damned cult of the sentence.

    please, make it not be the Girl From Ipanema


    Tall and tan and young and lovely…

    Well, tall, no; tan, depends on the season but yes; lovely, yes.

    I guess it all turns on how young you feel.

    were horribly disappointed I wanted to write “Space Opera trash.”

    Meanwhile, the rest of us were thrilled.

    Now, can you write something action with swords so I can con you to be on the podcast.

      1. I’ll have to think. Basically, a coworker and I are talking about a podcast “Swords &” which will be about everything that broadly fits that broad (meta) genre which Conan, John Carter, Tros, Khlit, and Milo Morai would all fit in.

        I think there is a huge potential in getting readers for those tales and newer ones in that vein, but only the first two get a lot of exposure so the fans don’t know what is out there.

        I’ll take a look at the musketeers and see.

      2. I’d love it. That and your Musketeer mysteries were some of the best reads (for me) that you’ve done.

        And please don’t stop with your self-roots analysis.

        1. It is coming. This year has been non-productive, but we’re ALMOST at the end of the disruptions. Provided I don’t catch the never-get-wells we’ll be fine.

  11. It is said that every Portuguese has a poetry book in his drawer (written by himself)and I used to doubt it but not anymore.

    Mediterranean Ireland.

    Or maybe it’s an Elf thing.

    1. For some reason, “Elf thing” is going through my mind to the tune of “Batman.” Thanks. 😛

      1. *cracks up*

        My husband, who I refer to as ‘Elf’*, is a ginormous Batman fan.

        * Ever watch NCIS? Elflord ring a bell? Think a skinny, tall twit instead, but yeah.

      2. Dan is the elf 😉
        But yes, Portuguese and Irish legends are startlingly alike, though Portuguese replace fairies with witches or just unnamed beings.

    2. A friend from the far north of Portugal looks totally Irish, very dark hair, pale skin, blue eyes, the whole shooting match.
      A theory is that the Gaels from NW Iberia populated Ireland and maybe Cornwall as the Romans were at their peak.

        1. Represent! 😀 (The part of Portugal I (and most of my ancestry) come from used to be part of Galicia. In fact our dialect was closer to it than to standard Portuguese.)

      1. Most of the European history books I read, early on, implied that everyone pretty much stayed in the same village they were born in, barring nobilty, merchants, and the odd invasion one way or the other..

        It took a while before I started piecing together odd comments and realized that while it might have been mostly true, some people still *did* travel, despite the time and expense, and some traveled a *lot*. Just for Rome, you had extended families throughout Greece, the Middle East, North Africa, Germania, Gaul, and Britain, and you had this continual Brownian motion of citizenry traveling the Empire while going about their lawful affairs, entirely separate from the military, the bureaucracy, the nomadic tribes, etc.

  12. I have to say I’m pretty allergic to “style.” I cannot endure Bradbury, for example, and Dunsany has never done a thing for me. Your prose has never tried my patience in that way.

    I have a lot of respect for Heinlein—more since I read his long letters to Niven and Pournelle examining the problems with their first draft of Mote—but the prose writers whose style I really admire include Kipling and Tolkien at the top of the list.

        1. I have found that circumstances can affect what I can read. I’ve read and adored such stylists as James Branch Cabell, as true an exemplar of early Twentieth Cent prose style as lived, but when afflicted with an infection following wisdom tooth extraction that caused lock-jaw and migraine-level headaches I could read nobody but Heinlein and Niven.

          Some writers require a more relaxed and reflective approach, is all.

        2. Liked a lot of McKinley. Liked Heinlein, of course. Hated the Martian Chronicles, though content is a much more likely reason than style. a) There’s a flavor of nostalgia in them, one that I have no use for b) Stories about psychological breakdown aren’t exactly my favorite c) After what the Martians pulled in the early stories, I would not have necessarily minded reading a Smithian style extermination d) My lack of tolerance for Cold War defeatism was already around when I read those stories.

    1. Dunsany is like a box of chocolate. You kinda browse through the box until you find one you want, and then you go at it.

      Also, his middle name was Drax.

  13. The next installment should be MOST interesting. Because different nations have very different perceptions of the same event. And sometimes, it takes an outsider to point out facts that neither side recognized.

    There’s a reason why the best history of the Zulu Wars was written by an American…and the best history of the Confederate States Navy by an Italian.

  14. I’m ambivalent about ‘style’. It can be a real barrier to entering the tale, but OTOH an author with a real ‘voice’ can be a joy. Hammett and Chandler both had voices that pale imitations have been doing badly as ‘style’ ever since. Peter Bowen has TWO, slightly different voices; one for the Gabriel du Pre mysteries and one for the Yellowstone Kelly books.

    I think it comes down to what my late Father described as the difference between a style and a mannerism. One artist (or sometimes several) develops a style for a legitimate artistic reason. He/they enjoy enough success to be copied. The copiers don’t embrace the reason, they copy the style, which becomes exaggerated and eventually tiresome.

    Robert Plant moan and wailed because he was doing call-and-response with Jimmy Page’s guitar (which moaned and wailed). For a long time would-be Rock God vocalists copied the moan-and-wail without understanding the roots, and consequently merely sounded like they’d gotten something caught it a wringer.

    Noir Detective authors try to match the world-weary poetry of Hammett and Chandler, but it came from genuine world-weariness in both men, which (most of) the imitators can’t match because they aren’t old, wrung-out private eyes.

    1. It was Chandler himself, in his essay “The Simple Art of Murder,” who said that whole categories of writers were trying hard either to sound like Hammett or to NOT sound like Hammett.

      Frankly, I’m not sure WHOM I sound like in my writing, and if you read the selections on my blog-site, I’m sure they’d be all over the place, because a few of them are from high school in the ’90s, before I’d ever picked up Hammett or Chandler or many others I’ve since grown fond of.

  15. Spiral thinking, yeah. Even on a construction site. A driving test, and of course anything to do with getting a piece of paper from the Função Pública.

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