Just finished reading this book yesterday, and I'm very happy. Sharing here my review from GoodReads:
The Elements of Eloquence by Mark Forsyth
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is an entertaining little book filled with wisdom and amusing facts on rhetorical figures. Anyone who loves the English language, or the beauty of languages and beautiful writing for that matter, will definitely enjoy this little gem. It has 39 chapters, each dedicated to explaining a particular figure of rhetoric in the most illuminating and delightful manner. Reading it gives me the chance to revise more familiar rhetorical figures like alliteration, antithesis, assonance, anaphora, metonymy and synecdoche, personification, and hyperbole; but also less familiar ones (at least to me) like polyptoton, hyperbaton, hendiadys, catachresis, epizeuxis, zeugma, and scesis onomaton.
To explain each rhetorical figure, Mark Forsyth draws examples from great writers, poets, playwrights, pop artists, rock and roll singers, movie actors and actresses, politicians, philosophers, and God (I mean the Bible). His writing is fun and engaging; it's hard for me to put the book down. The book claims to offer "tricks to make the most humdrum sentiments seem poetic or wise" (from the blurb on the back cover), and it doesn't disappoint. The blurb also says that the book will show how I can do the same - Forsyth concurs in the introduction part of the book thought-provokingly titled 'On Cooking Blindfolded': "Shakespeare got better because he learnt. Now some people will tell you that great writing cannot be learnt. Such people should be hit repeatedly on the nose until they promise not to talk nonsense any more" (p. 2).
I'm still not better at writing after finishing the book, but I'll definitely never going to read any written sentence in any language in the same way ever again. This is a book that I would want to go back to often - to refer to, to learn from, to contemplate. I think if all writing teachers can just make the teaching of rhetorical elements as entertaining, anyone who wants to write beautifully can learn how to do so, if they want to. At the very least, understanding of rhetorical figures can certainly afford humans the chance to discover a more in-depth appreciation for literature and beautiful writings.
In the penultimate section of the book, the 'Peroration', Forsyth reveals his hope for the book: to dispel "the bleak and imbecilic idea that the aim of writing is to express yourself clearly in plain, simple English using as few words as possible" (p. 201). And he goes on to say, "To write for mere utility is as foolish as to dress for mere utility" (ibid). (Can I show this to my academic journal editors? :P )
Without figures of rhetoric, "we would merely be us: eating, sleeping, manufacturing, and dying. With them everything can be glorious. For though we have nothing to say, we can at least say it well" (p. 202).
I think that aptly recapitulates what The Elements of Eloquence is all about.
View all my reviews
That's all for today. Till the next post!
-ccj, Duvanson, 3rd June 2021, 9.23am
I just finished my first MasterClass with Roxane Gay, on Writing for Social Change, and I'd like to share my thoughts about it. First of all, I really like Roxane Gay. Watching her MasterClass feels like sitting right opposite her, listening to her spewing words of wisdom directly at me, and just to me. Yes, it does feel personal, and I think that's what I like about it the most. Roxane has the ability to engage with people in a way that makes you feel comfortable and accepted. She's wise yet approachable, authoritative yet non-judgemental, established yet relatable. Learning from her is an inspiring experience.
Roxane's MasterClass is short - it consists of 20 videos ranging from around 3 minutes to 15 minutes in durations. But it's a comprehensive course. It starts with Roxane sharing her experience of writing as a black feminist, and how she has challenged ideas and minds through her writings. Then she goes on to sharing the technical aspects of writing, i.e. how to get started, the writing process, the writing 'toolbox', how to do research, how to self-edit, how to consume and criticise culture, and how to write about trauma.
It also includes segments called 'The Writer's Workshop,' which feature three aspiring writers reading their work to Roxane, and giving her the chance to comment on them. These workshops are super helpful and are my most favourite part of the whole MasterClass. It helps me see more clearly how the theoretical matters discussed in previous lessons can be put into practice.
The final part of Roxane's MasterClass deals with the 'business sides of writing.' I like the part where Roxane is being honest about how keeping a day job can emancipate a writer from the burdens of having to worry about monthly bills, and as a result provides more spaces and time for creativity and explorations. Something I've been pondering upon and thinking about. Roxane also talks about other practical aspects like how to find an agent, how to get published, and how to become a good literary citizen.
Works of art
As for MasterClass itself, I must say I'm blown away by the quality of the production. The videos are works of art in themselves. On top of that, a downloadable workbook is also included in the class resources segment. I downloaded it expecting to find a PDF containing bullet-point notes or a condensed summary of all the lessons. Instead, I found a beautifully crafted 28-pages e-book with detailed notes and high-quality photos. It's definitely not just a summary of the course; it provides a wealth of additional information not covered in the video lessons. It goes beyond my expectations, and needless to say, I'm very impressed.
Worth the money
The MasterClass costs USD180 per year (which is about MYR700). Annual subscription will give me access to all available lessons on MasterClass for a year, so it sounds like a great investment. I've been contemplating on subscribing to it for a long time, but I keep hesitating. Then my ever proactive friend Yanyi Lee registered first and received a promo of free 7-day membership which she could offer as a gift to anyone she fancies, and of all people she decided to give it to me. I used my 7-day free membership to watch Roxane Gay, and I'm glad I did.
I know it's a bit too early to say, but I'm convinced that I won't regret the money I spent on this.
Now I'm learning The Art of Storytelling from the amazing Neil Gaiman. Will post an update as soon as I'm done.
-ccj, Duvanson, 21 May 2021, 6.02 a.m.
Hello, I'm Cynthia. Welcome to my blog! More info in the About tab.