It’s been a very strange week so far, trying to hunt down quizzes and memes that I could post on this site. It turns out to be a huge industry on the internet, and like most internet phenomenon, produces screeds and screeds of stuff that boggles your mind without actually ever hitting the exact spot. I’ve been to visit the Queen o’ memes, otherwise known as Emily, and her first cousin, the Marquise o’ memes, otherwise known as Charlotte, whose discernment in memeing matters is to be admired. And from these little trips I discovered that I was Shakespeare in a past life (not too shabby), that I am 44% control freak (far better than I expected, but then I’m only interested in controlling my own environment, you others can all do exactly as you please) and if I were to be a mythological creature I’d be a unicorn. Well, if you say so. I couldn’t quite bring myself to answer all those questions with four answers, but if you’re asking me which four places I would rather be in right now, I’d probably say a) in the bath, b) on a beach with a good book c) in a restaurant with a delicious looking main course being placed before me and d) typing the last few words of the last line of a completed book manuscript. But in all honesty I’m quite happy sitting here typing to you.
Over at Archie’s place I took the book quiz for the second time, hoping to come out with something better than A Prayer for Owen Meaney. Disaster! This time it was Ulysses, which believe me, I did not consider to be an improvement. You know I don’t think one book is really enough to cover any one individual in any case. Anyone who actually paused to think about it could tell instantly that I am half Catch-22 (irony, paradox, contradiction) and half Nancy Mitford’s Love in a Cold Climate (endless good intentions, mild English eccentricity, a profound thankfulness for central heating). From there, however, I did discover a whole world of quizzes opening out. I couldn’t resist ‘What mental illness do you have?’, although the answer ‘obsessive/compulsive disorder’ wasn’t accurate at all, and I was, I admit, intrigued by ‘What type of person do you attract?’. I really thought the answer should have been nutters and weirdos (empirical evidence from years of university teaching would suggest this), but no, I attract geeks. I was prepared to dismiss this conclusion until I came across the sentence: ‘Geeks make good partners, but tend to be arguementative. If you are a TRUE geek magnet, you will know if that was spelled correctly and actually care.’ Ah. Anyhow, after that the next quiz I saw was ‘What color ought your toenails to be?’ and seeing that you didn’t automatically bypass to a quiz entitled ‘Why can’t I make the simplest decision for myself?’ I decided to give it up at that point.
So, I thought it was best if I just put together a little meme for myself, and this one’s on the joy of language.
List some of your favourite words:
Serendipity, proximity, charm, devastating, axiom, halcyon, crucible, deliquesce, cerulean, mellifluous, meditation, equivocate.
What’s your favourite maxim or proverb?
Celui qui vit sans folie n’est pas si sage qu’il le croit./ He who lives without madness is not as wise as he thinks he is.
What’s your favourite quotation?
‘The test of literature is, I suppose, whether we ourselves live more intensely for the reading of it.’ Elizabeth Drew
What’s your favourite first line of a novel?
‘Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person.’ Anne Tyler, Back When We Were Grownups
Give an example of a piece of description that’s really pleased you in your reading lately:
Elizabeth Hardwick describing Gertrude Stein’s writing style: ‘Many wires and pieces of string went into the contraption, the tinkering, and the one result was that she wrote at great length and used a vocabulary very, very small. It was her original idea to make this vocabulary sufficient for immensities of conception, America, Americans being perhaps her favourite challenge. When she is not tinkering, we can see her like a peasant assaulting the chicken for Sunday dinner. She would wring the neck of her words. And wring the neck of sentences, also.’
Which five writers do you particularly admire for their use of language?
Julian Barnes, Rainer Maria Rilke, Marcel Proust, Jorge Luis Borges, W. Somerset Maugham.
And are there writers whose style you really dislike?
Rachel Cusk, Boris Vian, Irvine Welsh.
What’s the key to really fine writing, in your opinion?
Good grammar and a feel for the musicality of words.
Naturally, I’d be delighted if anyone else searching for a meme to fill in an idle blog post felt like giving this a try…