Sunday, September 11, 2011

Your New Verb Is Strunk


So I've been plowing through Joe Clifford's copy of The Best American Short Fiction 2010. At first I was horrified but the situation is nowhere near as dire as it seemed at first. I will say that I have now officially added 'grad school' to 'prep school,' 'epiphanies,' and 'The Great American Novel,' in my 'why American fiction sucks' list.

But I went into this book expecting to be schooled. I had it in my mind that my fiction was a little musty, carried a bit of a library whiff because most of my fictional models are fairly old.

Instead, I'm finding myself quite critical even when pleased. It turns out that the sloppy-ass prose on this blog is closer to current standards than the prose in my fiction. Go figure. Most of this stuff wouldn't make it into Swill, which may be one reason we're having trouble filling the sixth issue. Maybe we are actually too picky.


Anyway, one story -- a perfect example of science fiction by someone who doesn't get science, fiction, or any combination of the two -- was bad enough to provoke a voice in my head to say, "Somebody needs to strunk the shit out of that motherfucker."

For a moment I was baffled, but the definition swiftly followed.

"Strunk: To aggressively line-edit for concision. From William Strunk, of The Elements Of Style."

Thank you, brain. That is an excellent word, and one I'm already using about eight times an hour.


'That bad boy needs strunking, dude."

"The problem was? After I strunked the damned thing, turned out there wasn't a story under all those modifiers."

"Man, why don't they strunk this shit before it gets into print?"

Strunk. Strunk. Strunk.

I will be using this word. Kindly do me the courtesy of understanding it.



Joe Clifford said...

It's another case of the Emperor's new clothes. No one has the balls to say, "Hey, that story in the New Yorker is dreadful." OK. Plenty say it. I say it. You say it. But there is this underlying interpretation that we're jealous. And we are. But that doesn't mean the story doesn't still suck ass.

Sean Craven said...

It really does seem as if the stories in that collection are mostly student works rather than mature statements. I'm not so much jealous as irritated -- goddamnit, I want the good shit and y'all holding out on me!

Erin O'Brien said...

I strunk myself daily.

Sean Craven said...

It's a matter of hygiene. You have to be able to do it for yourself if you're going to do it for anyone else.

Erin O'Brien said...

And when I strunk, I strunk HARD.

Sean Craven said...

It's become an obsession. I can't read any prose without mentally strunking it. I'm a ruined man.