The Catholic Herald recently published a book review of Dictator Literature by Daniel Kalder, which spoke of "..the tedium and horror of dictators' prose. The review by Ed West speaks of Lenin's aggressively tedious prose that was full of hatred and bitterness. West points out that Stalin fared a little better, having some natural talent, but that Mussolini was a goodish journalist, but no fiction writer. But it also claims that Mussolini was an obsessive anti-theist, firing rhetorical firecrackers at a series of straw men, which shows that is work did not rise above the level of mere propaganda. The book reserves its most critical language for the arch-monster Hitler, whose combination of an ignorant mind and a monstrous ego gave us the appallingly bad Mein Kampf, the work of one too arrogant to acquire either literary skill or wisdom.
What can we learn from Dictator Literature? Kalder wants to map the devastating wastelands of the human spirit while exploring the terrible things that happen when you put writers in charge. While there is some truth in the concern that no single occupation group can be trusted with ultimate power,mention of Czechoslovakia's president Vaclav Havel is a useful counter-example to Kalder's pessimistic claim, for Havel was a writer who turned into a successful and respected president. But the devastating wastelands of the human spirit that were expressed as these dictators' policies were the source of these dictators' turgid and generally unattractive writings.writing. Ugly policies came from ugly ideas, which were reflected in ugly prose, but the reality was worse than the literature. Mein Kampf was bad, but it would be worse to meet the SS in the flesh; and having once met a man who had seen and listened to Hitler, I was assured that it was not a pleasant experience, which led the man to get away as fast possible.
The key idea is that what we write is the expression of our minds. It is our individuality in words. We express ourselves in what we write. So the first step in good writing is that we should begin with our own minds, cultivating them and being determined to improve them. Without cultivation of the inner life of the mind no one can be a good writer, and it is a lifelong process. Within our own minds we must endeavour to realize the True, the Good and the Beautiful good qualities that these tyrants did not make real in their lives, quite the opposite in fact.
All writers must strive to express in words the great trinity of values: the True, the Good and the Beautiful. We might do this in a simple way by writing about interesting recipes,but we might be profound in our analysis of the gospels, but as long as we realize through our writing in some limited way these three values we are on the right path, for we are giving readers' sparkles from the sun of truth, goodness and beauty.
Catholic Herald July 26th 2018,Ed West.
A doctorate in Religious Education merits a respected professorship in private and public colleges and universities on this, western-pond side.
What would have been the occupational range for you as Religious Education Ph.D.-holder? And which opportunity would you have chosen?
My Ph.D would have been in Religious Education.
frankbeswick, Thank you for the practical information, the product lines and the nourishingly beautiful, good, true tips.
It's interesting that you bring up Vaclav Havel, a fine writer whom President Kennedy perhaps would have been pleased to see heading the presidency of Czechoslovakia (1989-1992) and then of the Czech Republic (1993-2003). President Kennedy once suggested a finer world with poets as presidents and in politics.
What would your Ph.D. have been in?
When I was twenty two my tutor told me that my style was wooden, so I worked on it. In my late twenties I began to venture into publication, with no success. So at 32 I decided to develop my mind by doing a master's degree. Only afterwards did I reject my tutor's willingness to put me forward for a Ph.D because I knew that it was time for me to write. Writing has been a long road requiring much commitment, but giving me great happiness. As I grow older [ I am sixty eight ] there are two sides of my life that I will never let retirement sweep away: writing and gardening.
Having begun blogging about 10 years ago, it is where I first began writing anything, and it was pretty bad. I have improved over the years, but I am still lacking in writing skills. It's not my favorite thing to do, but I do want to get better at it. Frank, you are an excellent writer! I always enjoy reading your articles. I've also begun reading novels recently and I do agree that reading is important for expanding ideas and skills. Writing on my piddly blogs is one way I practice.
I think that not only should writers read for research into the project on which they are working they should be widely read in general to provide them with a good background and to give them general knowledge.
I always do some research before writing. With some key ideas and awareness, I have better control in expressing my views. I agree with you, without nourishing the mind - nothing better can come out. Otherwise it is - 'Garbage in and garbage out', I especially feel it is good to establish yourself in niche areas as a good writer.
Good points made. I had to mention the bad and ugly when I spoke of dictators, but as you iply, it was necessary for the focus on the good and the beautiful.
Frank, let me assure you that your writing is quite good, and interesting.
I find it best to let work alone for a couple of days before rereading it. I do not do this in writing, for I am in a hurry to get the work out, but in my math work I can easily miss an error by reworking the problem right after writing it and its solution.
As for the three great principles mentioned herein, some topics require us to choose one, and let the other two go, or even write counter to them deliberately. For example, in writing about environmental problems, including the truth might require for effect the painting with words of a picture that shows the bad and the ugly associated with the truth. I suggest one element must be there, but having the shock value of the other two lacking could be the most effective approach. As with most things, being absolute can be problematic, for thought is a very needed component of our work. I do not wish to take issue with what you have written, but must point out there are exceptions. Inclusive a=of all three principles is usually best, and truth can never be the one lacking.
Writing must also take the audience into consideration. It would be inappropriate here on Wizzley to produce an article aimed at an audience of experts in any given field using field related jargon. Our audience here is general, and we must choose words and details appropriate to all.