10 January 2008

Peacock Use of Words

As usual, the shrewd and uncannily read Madame Arcati nails what I've uneasily been unable to articulate about the two writers of whom I'm most in awe, Amis and Hitchens.

Arcati is commenting on the "Thoughtful review in the Evening Standard by David Sexton of Martin Amis’ The Second Plane: September 11: 2001-2007, a collection of pieces in response to 9/11."

"Martin Amis: Another Word God booms

Sexton makes a point about Amis’ writing that’s similar to the one I made about Amis’ friend Christopher Hitchens – the “Word God” who rejects all religion but makes a faith of his own prose style: any deviation in others from the rules of grammar and syntax – or even from the requirement to impress clever writers - must be a sign of moral and intellectual muddle if not primitivism.

Sexton writes of Amis’ book: “The writing is so preening, so self-important about its own vocabulary and phrase-making that it always draws attention to its own display, not to the matter in hand. None of the formulae – ‘worldflash of a coming future’; ‘horrorism’; ‘hemispherical abjection’ – rings quite true.”

Virtuosic word-use is intended to establish superiority over the perceived ignorant: the peacock use of words in itself carries a mystical power in the mind of the author to exorcise dumb stupidity – like sacramental holy water flicked over the possessed. Amis and Hitchens should found a Word Church. They’d look marvellous in vestments, with a dictionary in one hand and a thesaurus in the other."

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