As soon as my first blogpost, on nothing really, was out, I was swamped with feedback. Most of it was good because it came from friends and acquaintances, who probably wanted to be nice. Notwithstanding the element of familial obligation and courtesy in these texts, I was perked up – seemed like I had arrived on the literary firmament. Having sent the customary thankyous, obsessed as I was with my silly first blog, I got down to some sifting. Didn’t take me too long to discern that each of the missives had one common thread – my sentences were too long. Some said they had to be read twice to get the sense. Others were not so kind. I was acutely aware of this shortcoming (‘long’coming, more aptly) and had made a passing mention of the malady in my ibid blog. However, the feedback suggested that the problem needed to be addressed post haste.
So I did some soul searching and complemented it with another kind of search, more common these days …. Google search. While soul search drew a blank, Google helped. I found a few interesting facts – the longest English sentence, which stood at 1288 words till 1983 was later surpassed by a sentence by novelist Jonathan Coe in “The Rotter’s Club” which had a 33 page-long 13,955 word sentence. Talk of long sentences existing only in the mind! I wonder if these were literary stunts to get into the record books, an expression of life-long angst, a way to get back at the English teacher or a purging of the soul. As far as the last goes, I would believe that this was purging of every purgeable part of the anatomy. It was evisceration.
But soul or body, it gave me heart. I was in august company. Of course, my longest was only 64 words, so I had some catching up to do. Maybe I would eventually get there with practice….if I could add another 13,891 words, I could be a contender for podium finish in the field of sentence length. But given the adverse feedback, I thought going with short could yet save the day for me… give my fledgling blogging career a leg up, maybe.
The shortest sentence in the English language is one word, two letters :”Do.” (or, “No.”, or “Go.”). So there is a wide range, array if you will, from 1 to 13955 words to choose from. Popular opinion favours the short sentence. Creative Writing experts never tire of belabouring the virtues of the short, crisp sentence.Essayists and Englit students vie with each other to say more in less. Brevity seems not only to be the soul of wit, but the ticket to literary greatness. With my appallingly long and wordy sentences, I was just not there.
It would appear, ipso facto, that contemporary English writing has no place for long sentences, which reflect, inter alia, the confused state of mind of the writer and of course inability to connect with the reader. So where does that leave long, ghoulish sentence-makers like me? Out in the cold, I would imagine. And what of friend Coe, he of the 13955 word monstrosity? I guess he could forever be in deep freeze.
I recall mentioning in my one-blog old writing career that I have taken to writing not because I nurture notions of literary greatness, but possibly because it has missed me by a mile. Even as I unabashedly chase that chimera, the long and short of it seems to be the debate between long and short. Clearly short is winning.
So I have decided to take the antidote to stop my word diarrhoea. Can’t say if it will work, given that the ailment is chronic. As is my wont, I put the idea, along with this write-up to the wife, weary under the effects of my new found avocation and its fallout : the put-on demeanour , my accompanying aplomb and swagger. She remarked with her usual disdain, that I could churn up nothing even half good. This evinced me to retort, tongue-in-cheek : “That’s why I have named my blogspot, ‘nothingmuch‘”. While on word play, in the league of catchy, alliterative tag lines like Bold is Beautiful, and in deference to the victory of the short sentence, I conceded – Long is Lame, Short is Sure.
Long live Short.