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Monday Curmudgeonry

The definition of the word privilege, like that of racism, has lately been stretched so far as to have lost all meaning. So you can imagine how I felt when I read the following:

The thing I’m most sure I had though, that was a direct result of my extraordinary privilege, is the blindness with which I bounded toward this profession, the not knowing, because I had never felt, until I was a grownup, the very real and bone-deep fear of not knowing how you’ll live from month to month.

That’s Lynn Steger Strong writing in the Guardian about how “you can only be a writer if you can afford it.”

But it wasn’t the obligatory use of the p-word that raised an eyebrow. No, it was the terrible writing. And if you think a fifty-six-word sentence with six commas is bad, it does, in fact, get worse:

I did not know what this writer, who I thought was single, paid in rent, or all the other ways that they might have been able to cut corners, that I, a mother of two, could not cut, but even then, it felt impossible to me that this writer was sustaining themselves in any legitimate way without some outside help.

One sentence, sixty words, eight commas, zero rhythm. And it’s all made even more confusing by the almost aggressive use of they as a singular pronoun. Here’s another example, just for fun:

For my students, for all the people I see out there, trying to break in or through and watching, envious, I want to attach to these statements and these Instagram posts, a caveat that says the writing isn’t what is keeping this person safe and clothed and fed.

Do you have any idea what she’s saying? I sure as hell don’t.

Look, it’s not the length of the sentence that bothers me.(I’ve written about this before.) It’s not the inordinate number of commas, either. It’s not even the random shifts from one subject to another. It’s the dearth of any sort of musicality in her writing. Like the person who claps on one and three, Lynn Steger Strong has no inherent sense of pitch and rhythm.

But ultimately, it doesn’t matter, because she’s right: If someone is making money writing like this, privilege can be the only possible explanation.



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