Imitation #3

I find nothing more conducive to the blunting of one’s appetite than to have none but elderly persons sitting around one at table, fouling their napkins with the disintegration of their make-up, and surreptitiously trying, behind noncommittal smiles, to dislodge the red hot torture point of a raspberry seed from between false gum and dead gum. ( Nabokov, Pale Fire)

Imitation #3 Tried to make a similar sentence by staying true to the story being told and to where the commas are placed. This is pretty fun, but I’m finding it hard to think about how to instruct my students to do the same.

I think there’s nothing more encouraging to the loss of one’s appetite than to be surrounded by over-ripened humanity at dinner, staining their tablecloths with the cake of cheap lipstick, and trying unsuccessfully, behind off-hand smiles, to remove the mouth-deadening sensation of a raspberry seed stuck between dead gum and fake teeth.


Imitation #2

Gradually she learned to use her eyes and apply new knowledge, till she could stand in an empty suburban street and realize that far beneath her shoes was a crater filled with rubble never to be seen, that never had been seen, because there were no eyes to see at its creating or throughout the long history of its being made and filled and hidden and lost. (Munro, Too Much Happiness)

Imitation #2 In this exercise, I tried to copy the rhythm of the words as much as I could, while using my own idea for the sentence.

Remi strove with all her might to be nothing more than ordinary, till she could stand in a room with a mere five people within and never be entirely real, never be entirely there, because there were no eyes nor ears to pierce the utter humdrum that surrounded her whole being till her presence was naught but felt and seen and heard and forgotten.



Imitation #1

Today, I’ve decided to start on a new habit. It’s called Imitation. Every day, I will copy an excerpt from a collection I found on the net, earnestly called, “The Enormous Pile of Cool Sentences“, and then I will rewrite this sentence while trying to imitate its form or structure. I’ve decided to go on this new “adventure”, because this is an activity that I’m having my students do, and it doesn’t seem quite right to have them do it without at least testing it out myself. I also want to see how long I can do this activity for. My target is a month, at least.

What do I hope to get out of this? Well, I’m hoping to have a better command of the written word by the end of the month. Apparently, that’s what Imitation does. By copying, and then rewriting, while trying to hold true to the structure, you somehow absorb the author’s style into yourself.

But don’t just take my word for it. Read these two articles I found on the net which explain the whole concept of Imitation a lot better than I ever could. One is from the Art of Manliness (A really good site, I must say!) and the other is from Style Academy (An English teacher’s salvation!).

And now, let’s start!

Error, superstition, dread, devout submission, hypocrisy, self-imposed silence, and theological mystification, a towering and colossal edifice of imposture and false doctrine, as Meslier saw it, formed an all-embracing system reaching everywhere, powerfully bolstering the supremacy of tyranny, abuse, exploitation, and vice throughout our world, a labyrinth of error so great that it appeared an all but impossible task to undermine or break it down. (Jonathan Israel, Enlightenment Reconsidered)

Imitation #1: In this one, I’m just replacing as many words or concepts as possible with a similar thought. It could turn into a synonym exercise for my students.

Flawed, mixed in pagan ritual, a gnawing reluctance, fanatic loyalty, belief without act, purposeful apathy, and the religious run-around, a Babel of arrogance and systematized lies, as Meslier saw it, formed an all-encompassing system reaching in all directions, greatly enhancing the hierarchy of domination, punishment, unchecked resource use, and the obsession with satisfying rapacious appetites all throughout our world, a maze of mistakes so great that it appeared an all but unimaginable task to undermine or break it down.

I’m looking at my work and I know it’s not perfect. Some concepts don’t quite fit. But after having done it, I feel like I accomplished something, and in a surprisingly fun way.

Try it.