Vintage Yankee Pot Roast: Mailer and Irving on Writing

Josh and Geoff of Yankee Pot Roast have closed up shop until February, creating a Netwide literary humor vacuum (and guaranteeing you’ll notice, if you haven’t already, that anything funny I post here is stolen from them or someone else with actual wit). Fortunately, they’ve left behind a 2004 wrap-up.

So here, from last February, is a bit of advice from John Irving* on “How to Write Good“:

Make the story take place during an indeterminate time period. Some people are into period pieces, and others enjoy attention to the details. These people will easily point out the stuff that’s made up in your writing. Whiny pusses. Ignore them, they most likely have a sibling, or are a sibling, and are therefore not in your target reading audience anyhow.

Be as boring and longwinded as possible. This is critical to being able to write good. If the sun shines through a blind, describe it in infinite detail. Think Charles Dickens, without the skill, but just as wordy. There you have it. For good measure, add two more paragraphs when you’re through getting your point across.

And Norman Mailer* observes that “Life is a size thirteen in the balls, my friend” before launching into the various pointers set forth in “Writing Well,” including this golden nugget:

Make sure that you make liberal use of the comma, semicolon, colon, and apostrophe as much as you can to extend the length of your sentences and, thereby, create the illusion of deep thought and/or great revelation in order to convince the people of one or more of the following: that you know what you are talking about; that you have any solid footing in what they call “reality”; that they are one of the little Japanese people, running frenziedly, futilely, for they are about to get squashed by a figurative Godzilla.

See also:

*So the YPR boys say.


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