Wednesday, October 10, 2012

On My Bookshelf: The Twelve Trademarks of Great Literature

My father bought this book, The Twelve Trademarks of Great Literature, for me about six months ago at a conference. When I first saw it, I thought it was going to be another let-me-tell-you-what-is-a-good-book-and-what-is-not pamphlet that had been stretched and lengthened into as many pages as the publishers could manage. I just knew it would trip all over itself with redundant phrases and ideas and tell me a bunch of facts I already knew.

Because of that, I didn't open it for five months. When I did, I read the introduction, stuck a bookmark in it, stuck it under the twenty other books on my nightstand, and forgot all about it.

Two nights ago, I pulled it out of the stack and began flipping through it. After a minute, I was glued to the pages.

The Twelve Trademarks of Great Literature:
1. The dogma is the drama.
2. Maintains proportion and perspective.
3. Maintains the appropriate pace.
4. Demonstrates an economy of words.
5. Flows uninterruptedly.
6. Unfailingly chooses the mot juste.
7. Makes the reader sympathize with at least one character.
8. Rewards attentive re-reading.
9. Shows rather than tells.
10. Expresses the inexpressible.
11. Moves you.
12. Creates with a distinct voice.

When I first read this list, my jaw dropped. Not only is it 100% correct, but it leaves so much room for personal opinion, while stating irrefutable truth. The writing is very clear and speaks directly to the issues it brings up.

I am excited to finish this book now and can't wait to share what I learn!

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  1. It IS a good list. Except for the latin (is it latin?) part which I have no idea what means. Sounds like a promising book. The main writing book I've read is "Elements of Style" by Strunk and White. And it was a bit boring. Yours sounds pretty good! :)

    1. French. For using the appropriate word or expression. ;)

    2. Ack, French...Latin. It's all Greek to me.

      ;) Sorry. We can all take a moment to cringe at my awful lameness.