Lester Bangs: I saw Bowie the other night

Lester Bangs: “I saw Bowie the other night.”

Lou Reed: “Lucky you. I think it’s very sad.”

LB: “He ripped off all your riffs, obviously.”

LR: “Everybody steals riffs. You steal yours. David wrote some really great songs.”

LB: “Aw c’mon. Anybody can write great songs! Sam the Sham wrote great songs! Did David write anything better than ‘Wooly Bully’?

LR: “You ever listen to ‘The Bewlay Brothers,’ shithead?”

—“Let Us Now Praise Famous Death Dwarves,” Creem, March 1975.

The next real literary “rebels” in this country

The next real literary “rebels” in this country might well emerge as some weird bunch of “anti rebels,” born oglers who dare to back away from ironic watching, who have the childish gall actually to endorse single-entendre values. Who treat old untrendy human troubles and emotions in U.S. life with reverence and conviction. Who eschew self-consciousness and fatigue. These anti-rebels would be outdated, of course, before they even started. Too sincere. Clearly repressed. Backward, quaint, naive, anachronistic. Maybe that’ll be the point, why they’ll be the next real rebels. Real rebels, as far as I can see, risk things. Risk disapproval. The old postmodern insurgents risked the gasp and squeak: shock, disgust, outrage, censorship, accusations of socialism, anarchism, nihilism. The new rebels might be the ones willing to risk the yawn, the rolled eyes, the cool smile, the nudged ribs, the parody of gifted ironists, the “How banal.” Accusations of sentimentality, melodrama. Credulity. Willingness to be suckered by a world of lurkers and starers who fear gaze and ridicule above imprisonment without law. Who knows. Today’s most engaged young fiction does seem like some kind of line’s end’s end. I guess that means we all get to draw our own conclusions. Have to. Are you immensely pleased. 

—from closing paragraph of essay entitled E Unibus Pluram: Television and U.S. Fiction, by David Foster Wallace

The keynote is the elimination of simple verbs

Operators or verbal false limbs. These save the trouble of picking out appropriate verbs and nouns, and at the same time pad each sentence with extra syllables which give it an appearance of symmetry. Characteristic phrases are render inoperative, militate against, make contact with, be subjected to, give rise to, give grounds for, have the effect of, play a leading part (role) in, make itself felt, take effect, exhibit a tendency to, serve the purpose of, etc., etc. The keynote is the elimination of simple verbs. Instead of being a single word, such as break, stop, spoil, mend, kill, a verb becomes a phrase, made up of a noun or adjective tacked on to some general-purpose verb such as prove, serve, form, play, render. In addition, the passive voice is wherever possible used in preference to the active, and noun constructions are used instead of gerunds (by examination of instead of by examining). The range of verbs is further cut down by means of the -ize and de- formations, and the banal statements are given an appearance of profundity by means of the not un- formation. Simple conjunctions and prepositions are replaced by such phrases as with respect to, having regard to, the fact that, by dint of, in view of, in the interests of, on the hypothesis that; and the ends of sentences are saved by anticlimax by such resounding commonplaces as greatly to be desired, cannot be left out of account, a development to be expected in the near future, deserving of serious consideration, brought to a satisfactory conclusion, and so on and so forth.

—“Politics and the English Language,” George Orwell.

In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defence of the indefensible

In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defence of the indefensible. Things like the continuance of British rule in India, the Russian purges and deportations, the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan, can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face, and which do not square with the professed aims of the political parties. Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness. Defenceless villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is called pacification. Millions of peasants are robbed of their farms and sent trudging along the roads with no more than they can carry: this is called transfer of population or rectification of frontiers. People are imprisoned for years without trial, or shot in the back of the neck or sent to die of scurvy in Arctic lumber camps: this is called elimination of unreliable elements. Such phraseology is needed if one wants to name things without calling up mental pictures of them.

—‘Politics and the English Language,’ George Orwell.

By ‘nationalism’ I mean first of all the habit of assuming that human beings can be classified like insects

By ‘nationalism’ I mean first of all the habit of assuming that human beings can be classified like insects and that whole blocks of millions or tens of millions of people can be confidently labelled ‘good’ or ‘bad’. But secondly—and this is much more important—I mean the habit of identifying oneself with a single nation or other unit, placing it beyond good and evil and recognizing no other duty than that of advancing its interests.

—‘Notes on Nationalism,’ George Orwell

We utterly refute any allegation to the contrary

“We utterly refute any allegation to the contrary. It is a matter of huge regret that Peter Oborne, for nearly five years a contributor to the Telegraph, should have launched such an astonishing and unfounded attack, full of inaccuracy and innuendo, on his own paper (my italics).”

—A spokesman for the Daily Telegraph.

Refute is not synonymous with rebut or deny. That is, it doesn’t mean merely “to counter an argument,” but to “disprove beyond doubt; to prove a statement false.” Yet the word is commonly misused for rebut—e.g.:“Ontario Hydro strongly refuted [read denied or rebutted] the charges, saying none of its actions violate the Power Corporations Act.” Tom Blackwell, “Local Power Utilities Sue Ontario Hydro Over Pricing,” Ottawa Citizen, 25 Apr. 1997, at D16. See rebut.

Sometimes the word is misused for reject—e.g.: “Two-thirds of the people refuted [read rejected] [Nicholas Ridley’s] belief the European Monetary Union is a ‘German racket to take over the whole of Europe’…” Toby Helm, “Majority Back Euro Deals,” Sunday Telegraph 15 July 1990, at 1.

A Dictionary of Modern American Usage, Bryan A. Garner

Run-on sentences, the “comma splice”

With a comma splice, two independent clauses have merely a comma between them, again without a conjunction—e.g.: “I need to go to the store, the baby needs some diapers.”

The presence or absence of a comma—and therefore the distinction between a run-on sentence and a comma splice—isn’t usually noteworthy. So most writers class the two problems together as run-on sentences.

But the distinction can be helpful in differentiating between the wholly unacceptable (true run-on sentences) and the usually-but-not-always unacceptable (comma splices). That is, most usage authorities accept comma splices when (1) the clauses are short and closely related, (2) there is no danger of a MISCUE, and (3) the context is informal. Thus: “Jane likes him, I don’t.” But even when all three criteria are met, some readers are likely to object. And in any event a dash seems preferable to a comma in a sentence like that one.

A Dictionary of Modern American Usage, Bryan A. Garner.