A Classic Flame

One of the delightful things about the Internet is reading the occasional well-written flame. Flamage is a specialized subset of writing, with its own requirements; being able to write a good essay or novel is no guarantee that you can write a good flame.

But of course the genre predates the Internet. And one of the all-time classics is Mark Twain’s Fenimore Cooper’s Literary Offenses (also at Project Gutenberg).

Here’s a sample:

The conversations in the Cooper books have a curious sound in our modern ears. To believe that such talk really ever came out of people’s mouths would be to believe that there was a time when time was of no value to a person who thought he had something to say; when it was the custom to spread a two-minute remark out to ten; when a man’s mouth was a rolling-mill, and busied itself all day long in turning four-foot pigs of thought into thirty-foot bars of conversational railroad iron by attenuation; when subjects were seldom faithfully stuck to, but the talk wandered all around and arrived nowhere; when conversations consisted mainly of irrelevancies, with here and there a relevancy, a relevancy with an embarrassed look, as not being able to explain how it got there.

Now go read the whole thing. It’s as enjoyable now as it was a hundred fifteen years ago.

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3 Responses to A Classic Flame

  1. Eamon Knight says:

    Twain had a way with words. Perhaps fortunately for me, my only acquaintance with J.F.Cooper is having watched episodes of Hawkeye on TV….40+ years ago. And I’ve forgotten absolutely all of them.


  2. arensb says:

    The closest I’ve come to reading any J.F. Cooper is watching M*A*S*H, which had a character named Hawkeye. Oh, and I once knew a guy from Cooperstown, NY, which was founded by J.F. Cooper’s father or grandfather.


  3. Troublesome Frog says:

    One of my favorite short ones in recent times was Ezra Klein:

    I don’t have much to say about Leon Wieseltier’s decision to imply that Andrew Sullivan is an anti-Semite. Frankly, I find Wieseltier’s prose so self-admiringly opaque that it’s nearly impossible to figure out what he’s saying about anyone at anytime. It’s like being insulted in Sanskrit. It’s possible he’s writing something terrible, but who’s to say, really?


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