The Spyglass, Views and Reviews, 1924-1930: Selected and Edited by John Tyree Fain

By Donald Davidson | Go to book overview
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accessible. By these participators of all sorts, in all extensions of skill and appreciation, let our progress in musical culture be measured.


Prose Style, Blues Magazine Critic's Almanac March 3, 1929

Good prose is being written in America, but it is not common. The main body of our prose has its tone and language from the magazines and newspapers. That is to say, it is journalistic prose, even when it is used by novelists like Sinclair Lewis and Theodore Dreiser. The eighteenth century would give enough examples to show that a journalistic prose does not need to be a bad prose. But in our day, journalistic prose has been damaged by two adverse influences, neither of which is bad in itself, but harmful in application. Science has filled the language with colorless terms that lose all the virtue of exactness as they pass into the general vocabulary of editors, preachers, novelists, biographers and other exhorters. I refer to words like "factor," "conscious," "complex," "element," "fundamental," "self-expression," "standardization," and all their tribe. The effect of such a vocabulary on all our most solemn and purposeful journalistic prose is to give it a pale veneer of Latinity and make it dull.

The contrary manner, which is of course rebellious and mocking, is best shown forth in Mr. Mencken's writings. He is a master of a style that is both explosive and vulgar; nor do I mean these terms as marks of blame. Mr. Mencken has given new life to the neglected Anglo-Saxon branch of the American language, bringing back into common use

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