Sunday, November 7, 2010

Exhortation from Ezra: describe describe

Photo has no particular connection to
Pound's ABC but I love it. Pound could be
the woman and the apparition Literature Past.

Ezra Pound's ABC of Reading is one of the first books on reading and writing (and teaching) I read. I am not fascinated by books about writing, probably to my loss. ABC might be more in line with my early eager consumption of opinionated essays--Nabokov's Lectures, for example--about literature. I'm not the person I was but who is and thank God for that, no explanation offered or necessary.

I read ABC in '73 knowing this or that about Pound's complex history. I cared, care, didn't, do.

Don't know that I remember much of De Maupassant. As for Flaubert, every word is chosen. I read Steegmuller's translation of his journals from Egypt first. {My disappointment with Bovary's sex scenes, when I was 13, is statistically invalid.} 
from ABC of Reading,
excerpt from Chapter 8


It is said that Flaubert taught De Maupassant to write. When De Maupassant returned from a walk Flaubert would ask him to describe someone, say a concierge whom they would both pass in their next walk, and to describe the person so that Flaubert would recognize, say, the concierge and not mistake her for some other concierge and not the one De Maupassant had described.

Ezra Pound, ABC of Reading, New Directions, 1934. Paperback from 1960. My copy from 1973.

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