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Posts Tagged ‘Anthony Trollope’

Beware Usen’t To

January 28, 2014 | by

Constance_Charpentier_-_Melancholy_-_WGA04799

This is what happens when you use usen’t to. Constance Charpentier, Melancholy, 1801, oil on canvas.

At ten every morning, Garner’s Usage Tip lands in my inbox—I’m sure Garner could suggest a less clunky formulation for “in my inbox”—providing a quick bit of unfussy, eminently sensible grammatical advice. There are worse things to look forward to.

Yesterday’s installment was the third in a scintillating four-part series on used to, which gets pretty spicy, as far as grammar goes. Fun fact: the contracted form of used not to is usen’t to, which has been, despite its pleasant lilt, almost wholly displaced by didn’t use to.

You could try to bring it back into style, but apart from sounding pretentious—which you would—you’d run the risk of becoming very miserable. Take a look at usen’t to as it appears throughout literature and you’ll see: it’s almost always used in the context of a total bummer. See below for examples from Forster, Trollope, Beckett, et al., none of which make the sun shine any brighter.

Please, if you can find any positive instance of usen’t to, direct me to it. Otherwise I’m inclined to offer a warning: abstain from this phrase, or you’re liable to be plunged into cafard, parochialism, censoriousness, or just sort of a downer mood. Read More »

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Literary NFL, and Other News

February 5, 2013 | by

Literary_Football

  • “The Ravens’ lack of interest thus far in supporting the city’s literary legacy is a travesty.” The Super Bowl doesn’t help Poe!
  • “Ladies and gentlemen, your Literary National Football League.” (And more!)
  • Speaking of (sort of) fictional characters inspired by real people... 
  • Doodling and Neuroscience 101. Half of this sounds doable.
  • “Anthony Trollope, before he set off for his job at the GPO every day, would write three thousand words between 5:30 and 8:30 A. M.. He kept his watch in front of him so he could achieve two hundred fifty words each quarter-hour. If he finished one novel before 8:30, he would instantly start the next one.” Don’t worry: not all writers’ word-counts are this demoralizing inspiring. 
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    Staff Picks: Trollope, Švankmajer, and Trevor

    January 7, 2011 | by

    Over the break I read what is now my very favorite Trollope novel, and the one I was saddest to finish: Framley Parsonage. I’m coming down off it with DeLillo’s Running Dog, Henry Petroski’s history of the bookshelf, and The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge. —Lorin Stein

    I watched Jan Švankmajer’s Little Otik and Alice in one night; both films are hilarious and nightmarish. Švankmajer is best known for his use of stop-motion and his exaggerated and bizarre sound editing, which reminds me a bit of David Lynch. I love the dialogue of his characters, especially that of the young girl in Little Otik, Alžbětka, who is perfectly vulgar. —Natalie Jacoby

    I have been enjoying William Trevor’s Selected Stories for that moment of calm at the end of each day. I’m about a quarter way through the enormous book, but my favorite story is still the first, “The Piano Tuner’s Wives.” It begins: “Violet married the piano tuner when he was a young man. Belle married him when he was old. There was a little more to it than that, because in choosing Violet to be his wife the piano tuner had rejected Belle, which was something everyone remembered when the second wedding was announced.” —Thessaly La Force

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