Advice to a Young Writer: Part II

Critics, Neologisms and Punctuation

Advice to a Young Writer: Part II


Reading critical reviews of your work can be quite daunting. I have read many critiques of my own work: from fawning obsequiousness to the most brutal, scurrilous attacks in the history of literary criticism. Here is my favorite, from a critic who shall remain unnamed:

“Reading his prose style is like being beaten by a rubber hose: Its painful, sometimes exhilarating, and it never leaves a permanent mark”.

Normally, I am not one to indulge in braggadocio, however …

The Catholic Encyclopedia of 1910 describes my writing style as “strong, lively, picturesque,” and that my “animation and good humour temper my dogmatic tone. I possess a wonderful facility in exposition, precision of doctrine, breadth of learning, and dialectical power.”

Alphonse de Lamartine (you magnificent, treacherous bastard!) though a political opponent, admired the splendor of my prose:

“That brief, nervous, lucid style, stripped of phrases, robust of limb, did not at all recall the softness of the eighteenth century, nor the declamations of the latest French books: it was born and steeped in the breath of the Alps; it was virgin, it was young, it was harsh and savage; it had no human respect, it felt its solitude; it improvised depth and form all at once… That man was new among the enfants du siècle.”

Ok. So maybe I picked up a few pointers from Joseph de Maistre. Just try to sue me JM!

Yet in all seriousness my friend, take heed. Look unto the mighty example of none but Yahweh himself — who, so exhausted by his Jewish redactors, commentators, glossers and editors — committed suicide on the cross (see “Suicide” in an upcoming post).

Few realize that the first paragraph of Genesis, first book of the Torah:

  1. In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
  2. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. (Ok, so sorry to interject, but I remember reading a translation that went: “Spirit of Yahweh Brooded upon the waters”. Was Yahweh a sulking mother)?
  1. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
  2. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.
  3. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.

Originally began:

“It was a dark and stormy day as Adam and Eve casually sauntered around the garden of Eden, just having eaten the fruit. Yahweh, as yet, had not noticed their transgression, but was soon to become most displeased”.

He even had the audacity to refer to himself in the uncommitted observer third person!


I don’t pretend to understand why, but the best are Pseudo-Germanic, Russian, Eastern European, Yiddish or all four combined.

“I was utterly and completely jarmungled by that!”

“He was ruthlessly and utterly kerflauvershavened by a group of three beautiful young grifters.”

“I was walking down the street, minding my own business, when I was set upon by a ruthless band of drunken Gilloolies”:

From Wikipedia: “On January 6, 1994 at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Detroit, Kerrigan gained international fame far beyond the skating world. As she was walking through a corridor at Cobo Arena immediately after a practice session, Kerrigan was clubbed on the right knee with a police baton by assailant Shane Stant. The assault was planned by rival Tonya Harding’s ex-husband Jeff Gillooly and co-conspirator Shawn Eckardt (1967–2007). The incident became known as The Whack Heard Round the World.”

Could there be a better word for a bunch of drunken, white trash, imbecilic thugs?

I wish I could have given this to Anthony Burgess to use for his “Clockwork Orange”, his mishmash of lingo inspired by the Russian language.

“Get right back here, you tiny little shomoligan!” (Uttered by an exasperated, semi-affectionate parent to a disobedient child).


“Lucas wastes no time fulminating à la Orwell against the passive voice, and he uses semicolons the only way a serious writer ought to: however he pleases.”

Please don't let Kurt Vonnegut muddy the waters.

“Here is a lesson in creative writing. First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college.”

Thanks KV, but rather outdated advice, and rather politically incorrect as well. Must admit that any punctuation analogous to transvestite hermaphrodites compels me to use it.

I, as your writing guru, adjure you to indiscriminately lavish your written words with punctuation just like a besotted lover showering his muse with endless trinkets. I believe we have been extremely lazy in our elaboration, creation, and evolution of punctuation.