The Passing Parade: Cheap Shots from a Drive By Mind

"...difficile est saturam non scribere. Nam quis iniquae tam patiens urbis, tam ferreus, ut teneat se..." " is hard not to write Satire. For who is so tolerant of the unjust City, so steeled, that he can restrain himself... Juvenal, The Satires (1.30-32)

Monday, June 20, 2005

THE SUBORDINATE CLAWS HIS WAY TO THE TOP, WITH A DIGRESSION ON THE MORAL ASPECTS OF THE MARATHON: A reader, and you know who you are, points out via email that while she enjoys what she reads here at The Passing Parade, the long sentences are a bit off-putting. She rushes through her reading, she writes, and reading a sentence that never seems to end leaves her panting for psychological breath by the time she finally arrives at the period. She is the not the first person to point this out to me, and I have tried on numerous occasions to eliminate the subordinate clauses or to keep them down to an absolute minimum. As you can tell, I am not always successful in this endeavor. I am not sure how I grew so enamored of the run-on sentence. I usually blame Thomas Wolfe or William Faulkner for the problem; they are both dead and so are unlikely to defend themselves against a charge of malignantly influencing the prose of Irish Catholic schoolboys. But the charge doesn’t really hold up under close examination—I have suffered from logorrhea since well before I read either Wolfe or Faulkner. I can still remember the red slashes across my school compositions; nuns used red ink to mark papers in those days and if your self-esteem suffered because of all the red then so much the better; they kept you from becoming full of yourself. In every composition there’d be slashes where I should have put the periods and the words run-on, run-on, run-on, written over and over again, until you’d think that the composition was an advertisement for the Boston Marathon and not an assignment about why hitting your little brother over the head with a 2 by 4 when he isn’t looking and then lying about it is a sin.

It’s an annoying habit, I know, and I suffer from it just as much as any other reader does. Just because I wrote the piece does not mean I know where the main verb is and I, like most of you, seem to waste a lot of time looking for the thing while it goes wandering away eating doughnuts or betting on the horses or a hundred and one other more interesting things to do than hold up one of these verbose monstrosities. So in keeping with our new policy of all high moral dudgeon all the time, The Passing Parade announces that we, and by we I mean me, since I’m the only one in here, will henceforth do our level best to keeping the subordinate clauses from proliferating like so much kudzu, that we will keep the metaphors to the absolute minimum, and we will keep sentences to the minimum number of words required to convey a thought and not to includes every damn thing that occurs to us along the way. Such prose may be easy to write, at least I am told it is easy to write; producing prose has always been a chore for me, whether it is the run-on variety or not; but it is very hard for you (and me) to read and we apologize for having inflicted this stuff on you without begging your pardon so much as a single time. We are turning over a new leaf here and we are sure that you will enjoy the new high moral dudgeon written in shorter sentences and clearer prose.


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