Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses

“Classic - a book which people praise and don't read.” - Mark Twain

Due to technical difficulties, I am unable to post the guest blog from Elizabeth Grace Saunders. My apologies to you all and to Elizabeth. I will be posting her article as soon as I can get the glitches worked out.

So today I thought I’d share an article I read on The Happiness Project, “Ten hilarious tips for writing from Mark Twain." Twain obviously didn’t care for fellow writer Fenimore Cooper, author or The Deerslayer and The Last of the Mohicans.

According to Twain:

Cooper's art has some defects. In one place in "Deerslayer," and in the restricted space of two-thirds of a page, Cooper has scored 114 offenses against literary art out of a possible 115. It breaks the record.

There are nineteen rules governing literary art in domain of romantic fiction -- some say twenty-two. In "Deerslayer," Cooper violated eighteen of them.

Some of the requirements are:

That a tale shall accomplish something and arrive somewhere. But the "Deerslayer" tale accomplishes nothing and arrives in air.

They require that the personages in a tale, both dead and alive, shall exhibit a sufficient excuse for being there. But this detail also has been overlooked in the "Deerslayer" tale.

Say what he is proposing to say, not merely come near it.

Use the right word, not its second cousin.

Read The Happiness Project for more on this essay or read the entire essay for examples of "…Cooper's high talent for inaccurate observation…”

Would Mark Twain’s review have kept you from reading Fenimore Cooper’s work?

Thanks for stopping by.

Tags: Mark Twain, Fenimore Cooper, Deerslayer, Last of the Mohicans, Elizabeth Saunders,


Anonymous said...

It rather makes me WANT to read Cooper just to see what Twain is talking about - a sort of reverse or boomerang marketing. Definitely will check out Twain's article. :)

The Old Silly From Free Spirit Blog

Galen Kindley--Author said...

I read the Leatherstocking tales as a kid, and pretty much enjoyed them. Of course, that was before, I was, “educated” concerning various writing rules. I’m wondering if there was an element of jealous in Twain’s analysis? What what his motivation to rip Cooper in public? Why not just live in peace. Surely, something set him off.

Best Regards, Galen.

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

If Twain was interested in reading something, I think that right there would make me want to read it (even if he didn't enjoy the read.) Thanks for the Twain writing tips, too.

Mystery Writing is Murder

Karen Walker said...

Yup, I'm with Marvin. Makes me want to read Cooper.
Karen Walker

L. Diane Wolfe said...

No, I'd probably read it just to find all those blunders!!!

L. Diane Wolfe

Helen Ginger said...

It might have kept me from ever writing again. But not from reading Cooper, if for no other reason to see if I agreed with Twain.

Straight From Hel

Patricia Stoltey said...

It's said among the writers I know that a bad review is better than no review at all. I guess that speaks to the readers' desire to see what the fuss is about. I wonder if it was true in Cooper's time as well.

John said...

I love Twain.

So much so that two of my daughters are named "Sawyer" and "Finnleigh" (for Huck Finn).

Wish we had his wit and insight around today.

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