Sunday, November 29, 2009

Glibbly ironic or ironically glib?

A few days ago I posted some musings on this blog asking if three sentences consitutes a story. From one-line poems, to three-line stories, to one-line essays--brevity, it seems, is difinitely "in"!

In case you haven't seen it, here's Dinty Moore's brief "essay" recently published in Mississippi Review Online

"I have a tendency toward glibness."

That's it--that's the entire "essay".

Moore is the editor of Brevity, which for more than a decade has been publishing "well-known and emerging writers working in the extremely brief (750 words or less) essay form," and whose site averages 6,000 visits per month.

I'm not the only reader scratching my head and wondering, in effect, "eh?" Mike Scalise also expressed confusion, and asked if others out there in bloggerland were also perplexed. Commenters' attempt at explaining and analyzing Moore's "essay" were as intriguing and amusing as the question which prompted the exchange in the first place, sometimes answering the question--with another question:

"My immediate gut-level reaction is .. that it's a definition of the essay."
"Is glibness what the 'essay' is conveying, or is it irony?"
"It TELLS glibness but SHOWS irony."

"It seems like Moore could’ve re-written his 'essay' to be even more brief, if brevity is the point. 'Tendency toward glibness' would seem even more glib of a statement, implying that the narrator is so glib that he has stopped bothering with (believing in) complete sentences... I don’t make an immediate connection between glibness and brevity."

The phrase "tendency toward glibness" is not unique to Dinty Moore. Joseph Epstein, in his book A Line Out for a Walk (1998), on page 85, states:

"Often behind what I have called 'the happy knack'-—my old tendency toward glibness is still intact, I see--is a great deal of effort; and careful writing is, after all, the best evidence going for having ... a lucid mind."


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