e a m harris

Roaming the byways of literature

Archive for the category “Literary quotes”

The words of rhetoric

cover art from goodreadsI recently bought a book about rhetoricThe Elements of Eloquence by Mark Forsyth. Subtitled How to Turn the Perfect English Phrase it gives information and examples of numerous rhetorical devices that will hopefully expand and improve the reader’s writing.

As a writer I found it fascinating and useful, but what I really loved was all those fancy names for the different devices. Words like polyptoton, aposiopesis, litotes, or epistrophe – how have I missed out on them until now? Did you know that the four names in the last sentence is a congeries (yes, that is singular and the plural is the same – like sheep)? So much grander than ‘list’. (And that verbless sentence is a scesis onomaton.)

Anyone can use rhetoric. When the main man in Dr No introduces himself as: ‘Bond. James Bond.’ he’s using a diacope (or verbal sandwich in English), as well as a scesis onomaton.

While the Greek and Latin words may take some learning, the English explanations are very readable and interesting. They open up a whole array of new understanding about what writers from Shakespeare to John Lennon have been up to.

Cover art from Goodreads.

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A quote on one of the values of reading

Anyone who says they have only one life to live
must not know how to read a book.

This is an anonymous quote and I think I’ve come across it several times in the past. My own feeling is that the extra lives available from books are usually only part lives – very few books cover the whole of someone’s life. But if you read a lot, think how many extra lives you’ll have had by the time you reach the end of your real one.

There are, of course, other ways of getting these extras. Story and biography telling were originally oral. Sitting round the fire listening to the wise woman’s description of the deeds of your ancestors must have been similar to sitting in the library reading about Harry Potter.

Even when we aren’t reading, other lives are available to us through imagination. Last time I was at an airport, waiting for my flight to be called and annoyed at how time was crawling rather than running, I started to wonder where all my fellow waitees were in their minds. Perhaps they were exploring alien planets, swimming the coral sea, winning in the Olympics or dating the boy next door.

We also get some extra moments in our dreams. I frequently dream whole days with friends I haven’t seen for years or even with people I’ve never met. These too are extra experiences that add to our down-to-earth real-time lifespan.

Literary quote – from a great woman

Helen KellerThe late, great Helen Keller knew what it was to be left out and overlooked. Like so many others she seems to have found her comfort in books.

Literature is my Utopia. Here I am not disenfranchised. No barrier of the senses shuts me out from the sweet, gracious discourses of my book friends. They talk to me without embarrassment or awkwardness.

There is a lot in this quote to mull over, but I particularly like the idea of discourse between friends being sweet and gracious. She really had a gift for description.

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