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Sunday, 5 October 2014

Lovable or a louse?

 Beth, preparing for winter in Montreal (see above) has a warm heart. Says one of my posts has "a tenderness" adding "maybe because you're being less self-deprecating than sometimes". The quote charms me and I accept her possible reason.

But the problem remains. What tone do you adopt when writing about yourself?

Boastful? A good chance readers will drop away like Montreal flies. And indirect boasting ("People tell me... ") is just as obvious as the direct sort.

Truthful? Harder than it looks. To keep the faith you must give both sides - good and bad - which risks boasting (qv). Also, "balanced" judgments become wearisome.

Fantastical? Replacing oneself with another persona, allowing some extravagance. I did this  via my blogonyms: Barrett Bonden (dependable bosun in the nineteenth-century Royal Navy) and Lorenzo da Ponte (Mozart's main librettist). But it's a strain and can be misunderstood.

Impersonal? No capital i. You become the Ministry of Pensions. What the Hell, blogging is you and me.

So, self-deprecation. Ie, knocking oneself. But wittily (one hopes). Pro tem that's it.

Blest Redeemer (Title change imminent, I think)141,465 words.

Mabel ignored Judith’s mug, filled a bone china cup, placed it on a saucer and put it down on the desk. “You’re clever and you’re better looking than Fiona Bruce. Yet you barricade yourself behind tons of mahogany and wear bookie’s suits. A very high-class bookie, but a man of the turf nevertheless.”

Judith sipped coffee. “I needed to be taken seriously.”

“I realise that, canny. But you’re long past that. Time to be yourself. Look at you, I mean. None o’ that should be disguised.” 


  1. Sometimes I find your comments oblique and inpenetrable, this is one of them. But I recognized Snowbound Montreal instantly.

  2. Writing about one's self? No problem. Adopt the same tone as when speaking to one's self in the privacy of one's own head. Therefore all those tones you've listed may apply, or none of them.

  3. Stella: This is so depressing. This post was to have been your matriculation which all the other commenters (a diminishing band alas) have ar other times passed with flying colours. That they - and now you - are intellectually superior to me and that therefore there is no chance I would ever find myself "writing down" to any of you. That you all burned with a hard gem-like flame. That I profited from you and not the other way round.

    What now? That you were better-educated was demonstrated months ago, but then virtually everyone is. Today should have been your coronation, your induction into this rigorous elite. You are of course worthy of special case status but I had hoped for so much more. Angels and arch-angels simging Wachet auf!, the ghost of WS mobilised for a special sonnet involving delicious interplay with the medieval latin meaning of "star", the baking of a seed cake.

    I am cast down. I must go away and rend my clothes.

    Natalie: How casually you prescribe letting that particular genie out of the bottle. Opening that Pamdora's Box. Putting the whole of western civilisation at risk. Malice and vindictiveness let loose on unborn billions. Think again, Nat, think again.

  4. Art you talking about achieving a style? The aim should be to entertain or enlighten your audience, so consideration of the expected audience may be a factor, but for you they ether sink or swim. I can understand that because your audience is varied and you are not prepared to write down to anybody, but "writing up" must diminish your audience to a select few intellectuals.

    When I write about myself I am sure there is a mixture of most of your headings with a boring slant towards "truthfulness". I use self deprecation on occasions, but this can then turn into boastfulness when I explain how clever I was to redeem an adverse situation my self-confessed incompetence got me into, but what is wrong with that?

    As I write this I realise that it may be more interesting to write more about myself (and my thoughts) than about the factual events, regardless of attention to your list of headings. That would be a start.

    I have written 670 posta, many of which you have commented on, but rarely dished out any kind of approval of my content. Must try harder.

  5. Robbie, my comment deserves better than this succint and accurate dismissal! (by the way, I'm smiling so don't imagine that I'm offended).

    As I see it, blogging must first of all be enjoyable and possibly stimulating to one's own creative self. Secondarily, it might do the same for those (however few) who chance to read it.

    Since I quite enjoy talking to myself and sometimes making myself laugh (silently, of course) I don't see why I shouldn't share the experience with others. When my inner monologues are too grumpy I turn them off and listen to something more interesting from the outside world. So malice and vindictiveness are unlike to be unleashed upon civilisation, from my head at least. But I get your point.
    And by the way, I demand a comment from you over at the Blaug.

  6. Sir Hugh: Style is the way things are organised and eventually presented; tone (at least for the purposes of this piece) is the standpoint taken. Either can be handled entertainingly. Standpoints can be plural: if it didn't sound so bloody condescending I might say I assume an intelligent audience. Rather better I assume an audience capable of enhancing my original post. And by enhancing I include improving.

    The tones I list are treated broad-brush. Since the advantages are probably self-evident, I major on some of the disadvantages. None is definitive.

    "write more about myself". A dangerous step. It isn't enough to be factual, you must seek to be original. A big ask, as they say. It is possible to disguise lack of originality by employing new styles and new tones. Such strategies must be consciously arrived at and never - repeat never - overtly announced.

    Which all goes to show that those who believe writing to be a natural process - like breathing - are doomed to bore.

    "approving your content". It isn't necessary. Content is subject: I expect a certain range of subjects from you and get it. If I'm in the mood for a post about soccer I'd go elsewhere - well aware that the balance of my mind had inexplicably become disturbed.

  7. Natalie: You were recommending a course of action for me. Why did you imagine I was ascribing all those subsequent events to you?

    Also you appear to believe that length can override quality. Your first comment added up to 34 words. My response was 38 words. That puts me four words in credit. What ratio do you normally expect and how is this qualitative measurement made? More particularly, who does the measuring?

    I have glanced at your most recent post and am now returning to meet your demand. However I reserve the right to be concise.

  8. Woe is me, I should check in more often. Any shortcomings belong to me. I admit to reading (often) too quickly, fitting the blog in between other, pressing agenda. I aspire to your level, truly but fear for my reach.

  9. This is the wearisome balanced judgement post, right? Save for you positing yourself fantastically as Mabel in the BD excerpt. Just let 'er rip, Robbie...it's all good.

  10. Stella: Hey, no need for self-abasement. Being rapped over the knuckles with a farmed sea bass still leaves you a member of the human race.

    MikeM: Sounds dangerously like puppy-dog love. Indiscriminate. One of your fascinating mood swings driven by a desire to "interpret" everything around you including, I suspect, the appearance of your own front door.

    I was always surprised you didn't detect a latent Oedipus Complex in my covert compression of Mike M down to MikeM, proof that I'd recognised your greater skills when it comes to bell hammers, that I'd become egregiously envious, and subsequently intent on cutting you down to size.

    By the way, we never got the sequel to your decision to convert the grannie-flat into a new bathroom (the details may have become slightly blurred with time). Or did you accidentally connect the hot water to the waste pipe?

    Phew, at least I'm no longer balanced. Definitely unbalanced.

  11. Do you really care how others perceive you?
    Just keep holding your back straight and be yourself.

  12. Ellena: I care very much what the police think of me (Don't wanna get banged up for no good reason), same with the butcher (I'm allergic to poisoned lamb chops), my neighbour (Who might otherwise laugh as my house burned down), the tax men (For obvious reasons), the manageress at the Thai restaurant (I'd hate her to spit in my soup), and - come to think of it - the rest of humanity. Independence is all very well if you're leading a group of insurgents intent on overthrowing the government, otherwise I see it as an unnecessary luxury.

    And holding my back straight makes me a taller target for anyone who's armed.

    No principles, you see. No principles at all. People who live outside Canada can't afford them.

  13. I did enjoy this, and the comments, though I've left it too late to add much, so I'll just say, Robbie, you're clever and you're better looking than Fiona Bruce.

  14. Well, I'd rather look at you than Fiona Bruce anyway.

  15. Lucy: Delighted (not surprising really) by your first comment but horribly apprehensive when a second comment arrived twenty minutes later. Even delayed opening the second comment for a while, convinced you'd had second thoughts and that it would contain a wounding comparison with the newsreading hamster from Wales - Huw Edwards.

    Now I realise you had to publicly straighten out your heterosexual proclivities and that I am a mere pawn in all this. What a relief.

  16. Hmm, not necessarily. I'd rather look at Fiona Bruce than Huw Edwards.