Tuesday, March 28, 2017

"I got a scheme!"

From 2015: Writing in The Guardian, Zachary Leader on how Saul Bellow found his voice. An excerpt:

In Chicago, new ingredients were added to this linguistic mixture. Neither home, nor school, nor Hebrew school could keep Bellow from the street. Street language in Chicago was “rough cheerful energetic clanging largely good-natured Philistine irresistible” (a typically comma-free sequence) and American. “The children wanted the streets,” Bellow wrote, “they were passionate Americans, they talked baseball, prizefights, speakeasies, graft, jazz, crap games, gang wars.” The neighbourhood schools Bellow attended “earnestly tried to convert or civilise their pupils, the children of immigrants from every European country. To civilise was to Americanise us all.” In English class, “there was a core programme of literary patriotism”. In English composition, “we, the sons of immigrants, were taught to write grammatically. Knowing the rules filled you with pride. I deeply felt the constraints of ‘correct’ English. It wasn’t easy, but we kept at it conscientiously, and in my 20s I published two decently written books.” 

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