There’s No Such Thing As Good Writing

As fellow editor Gary Deddo likes to tell the story, his ninth-grade English teacher was the perfect stereotype. Glasses, tight face, hair in a bun, outdated dress that came up in a tight collar around her neck, leaning over her desk and in a crackly voice exhorting her students, “There’s no such thing as good writing. [Dramatic pause.] There’s only good rewriting.”
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The Man’s Man of Letters

My latest excursion in literary tourism took me just fourteen miles from our offices in Westmont when I recently visited the birthplace of Ernest Hemingway with some friends. The house in Oak Park, Illinois, has largely been restored to its original condition.

Here young Ernest joined in prayers with his grandfather Abba, a Civil War hero for the Union who led a “colored brigade.” Here he was entertained, along with his siblings by the stories spun by his father. Here he heard his mother, a veteran of New York’s Metropolitan Opera, offer music lessons. And so pieces of the influence on Ernest as a writer begin to emerge.
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The Shallows 2: A Brief History of Reading

In Phaedrus, Socrates muses on the merits of writing. Surprisingly to our minds, he is skeptical. Why? It is a recipe for forgetfulness. We won’t have to exercise our memories anymore. Knowledge of a subject, after all, is much more valuable than a written account of the same thing. The only virtue of writing was as a guard against the forgetfulness of old age.

So Nicholas Carr, in The Shallows, introduces us to the first Luddite in his book on how the Internet changes our brains. (See part one of my review [here]( In chapter four he offers a fascinating overview of the history of the written word and how each change created changes in us and in society.
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The Shallows 1: A Change of Mind

Nicholas Carr made a splash with his Atlantic cover story “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” which I discussed here. Now in The Shallows he brings a full-length book to bear on the question, and it’s a dandy.

The subtitle, “What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains,” is very descriptive. In this serial review, I’ll touch on some of the evidence he offers, a mix of anecdotal and scientific.
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