The Republic of Letters

Elmore Leonard’s Rules For Good Writing

800px-Elmore_LeonardIf you haven’t heard already, Elmore Leonard died today at his home in Bloomfield Township, Mich. He was 87. Proving again that fame is a vain pursuit, I’m constantly surprised by the number of people who’re either completely ignorant of him or his work. Probably because of the movie, the work which elicits the most “Oh, yeas.”, though, is his 2005 novel “Get Shorty.” Yea, Leonard wrote that. Anyway, in 2001 he wrote a short piece for the Times explaining his rules for writing. It’s a gem. Read it. Keep it. Use it.

  1.  Never open a book with weather.
  2.  Avoid prologues.
  3.  Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue.
  4.  Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said” … he admonished gravely.
  5.  Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.
  6.  Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose.”
  7.  Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
  8.  Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
  9.  Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.
  10.  Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.

(HT: Gilbert Cruz/Vulture and image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Getting to Know Manolo Blahnik

manolo-blahnikJohn Heilpern lunches with the shoe designer at the Monkey Bar and pens a flattering portrait of the man. Of his obsession with shoes, Heilpern writes:

He has for many years lived in London and in historic Bath, in southwestern England, where his two adjoining Georgian houses are also home to some 25,000 to 30,000 pairs of prototype Manolos. He’s lost count of them. “I don’t live in a house. I live in a shoe museum! ‘Shoe mausoleum’ would be better! I lost about 300 in a flood in London. But it’s O.K. I saved some of them.” It’s almost as if his shoes were human to him, like members of an extended, sexy family.

What I like most about Blahnik, though, is his perspective on wealth and work.

And although he is surely wealthy, money has never been the point with this well-liked man. “I love to work. I don’t have any life! But, you know, John, people of my generation, we didn’t think much about money. I believe that everything is done for the pleasure of doing it. I have that kind of mind, I think. Maybe I’m crazy.”

(Image courtesy of Divaboostylesnyc)

MoDo On What The Clintons Are All About

How quickly the world forgets. Is there any doubt that the Clintons, of course, would belong to Slytherin?

(HT: Allen Estrin/Dennis Prager Blog)

What Happens When The Good Merely Look On And Do Nothing


John Stuart Mill/Wikimedia Commons

Via Keith Burgess-Jackson, comes a reminder of a commonplace but important truth from John Stuart Mill. Remember it when faced with a choice.

Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing.

(John Stuart Mill, Inaugural Address Delivered to the University of St. Andrews, Feb. 1st 1867 [London: Longmans, Green, Reader, and Dyer, 1867], 36)

From Lou Gehrig to Alex Rodriguez: A Study in Decline


(Lou Gehrig/Wikimedia Commons)

Rich Lowry, editor of the National Review and columnist for Politico, writes:

The difference between the two Yankees is the difference between going away with grace when no one wants you to leave, and sticking around, gracelessly, when most everyone would prefer that you go. It’s the difference between fighting for your life but not mentioning it, and saying you’re fighting for your life when you are not. It’s the difference between calling yourself the luckiest man on Earth when you have been dealt an ugly hand by fate, and pitying yourself when your predicament is the product of your own bad choices.

From Gehrig to Rodriguez is a long way down.

Exactly. Read the whole column. Here, by the way, is a wonderful video of Gehrig’s farewell speech. Gehrig’s first line is often quoted, and rightfully so, but his last words are equally as powerful if not more so.

I don’t think I’m alone in thinking this, but with a markedly honed sardonic edge and improved style as a polemicist,  Lowry’s columns are now a must read.

“I want to like Walmart. I really do. I just can’t.”


(Wal-Mart Exterior/Wikimedia Commons)

That’s what my friend Michael Liccione says, and, unfortunately, I must agree with him. “Unfortunately” because I want to like Wal-Mart since it brings genuine savings to the consumer (see reason 2 of Professor Bainbridge’s critique of Wal-Mart), and especially because it educes the irrational ire of so many on the Left. But both for the reasons Michael adumbrates–namely, “Dangeous parking lots, inconsistent stocking, women wearing pajamas and thongs, and butts so wide you can’t get around them in the aisles.”– and Stephen Bainbridge expounds, I sadly can’t. If you like Wal-Mart, feel free to comment explaining why. I’m entirely open to being disabused on the subject.