I lack the skill of mimicking a cat
Mimesis makes me copy acrobats
I cannot do the crossword in the Times
If I’m free, I marry many rhymes
A cartoon left me cold,I needed words
I preferred to talk except to birds
But now I reach the higher slopes of life
I eat cartoons for breakfast with a knife
In mathematics we use little signs
The science of pattern circles all my lines
We learn to write what others knew by craft,
The hand precedes the brain, the warp, the weft
The Scribes were groups who wrote what others said
Scroll by scroll the Hebrew Bible’s read
“As much as we might admire what is fresh and innovative, we all learn by imitating patterns,” writes Irina Dumitrescu in The Times Literary Supplement. “To be called ‘formulaic’ is no compliment, but whenever people express themselves or take action in the world, they rely on familiar formulas.” It’s true. For her review-essay, Dumitrescu reads 5 books about writing and explores how writing advice is caught in a paradox: to get people to communicate clearly, logically, and find their own voices, instruction must first teach them rules and provide enough room to learn by copying. This is why most of us writers begin by imitating established writers. We find someone whose style or subject reflects our own – someone in whom we hear our ideal selves, someone who sounds like we want to sound one day – and we mimic them. This could start with a parent, move to a cool friend, then end with a famous novelist or memoirst, before we emerge from the pupae of literary infancy. In other words, to facilitate originality, we must teach formula, encourage imitation, and push for eventual independence. She explores the value of craft, structure, exploration, and formula, and the way sticking to rules erodes a writer’s style, their character, even the essence of the art. She contrasts John Warner’s book Why They Can’t Write: Killing the Five-Paragraph Essay and Other Necessities with the book Writing to Persuade, by The New York Times‘ previous op-ed editor, Trish Hall.
Click the link at the top
Emile woke Mary up at 7am.It was a Sunday in late October, grey and damp though the sun was still not too low in the sky
Go away, she told him.The clock has changed.It’s not 8 am yet.I have to wash my hair as well.Get the Observer out of the basket for me,please.
I can’t read. the dear animal replied.And why don’t you rebel and stick to Summer Time?
I know Stan wanted to send you to Eton but we couldn’t afford it.Yet you understand days and calenders, Mary joked sorrowfully
She got up and found her fleece dressing gown; it was conker brown covered in coloured spots.She went downstairs and gave Emile a Whitby kipper.Then she made some tea and took it upstairs so she could drink it while she came round from her dreams
Suddenly Annie ran into her bedroom wearing a long black vinyl coat and red knee-high boots
You never locked the back door, she howled like a lost leopard which has had no food for weeks
I don’t suppose anyone wants my old TV as it is only 19 inches.And my Chromebook is not something worth re-selling.I do have a new coat.
How about Ray Monk’s life of Wittgenstein, Annie asked her defiantly, her apricot lips pouting childishly as the Riemann of Paris lipstick glittered uncannily like an imaginary number in a dream of Godel.
The people who might enjoy reading it are by virtue of that , not the sort to steal or buy it on the black market.
That is very racist, Annie told her.You should say:the beige market!
Then nobody would know what I meant, Mary said lovingly
Anyway, do you want to come to Marks with me? They have some beautiful coats in
I’d like a pink wool coat, said Mary thoughtfully
Quite right ,said Annie.Bring back feminine colours
Actually, gay men might like pink coats, she continued.But if they go on the bus they might get dirty.Come to think of it, so will women’s coats
They will have to buy pink puffa jackets and we can wash them at 30 deg.Mary whispered
Using a special detergent, Annie asked?
I have never seen a detergent for washing gay men.I don’t think they will fit into the washing machine.On the other hand, you are small so you will fit in
Shall I get undressed first, Annie asked furtively.
Yes, I’ll try to put you on a short wash for 15 minutes but it is your choice.Maybe a bath would be safer?
No problem, said Annie intellectually.Are you having one with me?
You’d better be careful, Mary ad-libbed.It might be sexual harassment.
Well, I am not gay , said Annie.
You never know till you try, Mary giggled ,like a child behind the school canteen
Why, we might become gender fluid and then who knows?
And so say all of us
Image by Mike Flemming
Mary was wearing her piink and red glasses while reading a blog on Simone Weil,the French mystic.Mary knew her brother Andre was a mathematician.Is that a form of mysticism? And is mysticism of any value? There’s more value in helping a neighbour than in mystic bliss.
Annie ran in carrying a green bucket and blue spade in a plastic bag
I’m going to Cleethorpes for a day trip . she cried cheerfully
I don’t think so,Mary said while mentally assessing Annie’s outfit of imitation leopardskin leggings covered in part by a guava coloured tunic which matched her trainers very well.The whole topped by a down coat in pink and purple stripes which she got in a sale online in the summer
Do you think leopardskin is suitable for a beach?You might want a donkey ride
The donkey won’t know the pattern,Annie said.sincerely yet uncaringly.Indeed some may say she was rude to the point of a dagger
Her full lips pouted ,showing off her coral lipstick and matching eyeshadow from Gillete of Rochdale and Hebden Bridge not far from Sylvia Plath’s grave.Oh,my>
Her foundation cream was not unlike that of Donald Trump which Mary had not mentioned, unwilling to shatter Annie’s dreams of wondrous love in waiting.
Although in would have made more sense to tell her to dress with more dignity and charm if she wanted a man
.With modern fashion it’s hard to know what will attract people.Who’d have thought leggings and bikini tops would be worn to go shopping?
Pyjamas seem popular too.
Why don’t we go to Hebden Bridge?
With all these storms its been under water for weeks
Oh,blagger, there’s always some problem
Well, we are getting older and I don’t want to die in Hebden Bridge by drowning
So where would you like?
Dundee.They make nice cake
You won’t need cake where you will be going
Actually I am going to the Diabetic Clinic
You never said you were diabetic
Annd you never said you had 33 teeth.
Well,I am a Viking
That’s no excuse
I can’t alter my genes
What are they,little patterns?
To be honest ,I don’t really know
Let’s go to Waterstone’s and buy Hilary Mantel’s new book.
It is very heavy
But if we are put in quarantine we will be able to read it
I’ll plant some tomato seeds in a carton of compost
Whynot? I might grow some herbs
And so will all of us