Can Vox Day Read?

I haven’t looked at the blog us SF fans got in the adopt-a-far-right-troll-2015 raffle for awhile. I decided to check in just in case and found something a bit different. Vox is trying to explain what is wrong with modern literature. To this end he took a fragmentary paragraph from he 1985 National Book Award winner (you can look it up). He re-arranged some sentences and created three versions – one of which was the original – and challenged his readers to spot the correct one. The point of the exercise was to show that it didn’t matter how much he garbled them.

The thing is, it was obviously number 2 and even his comment section (not always the brightest of sparks) mainly get it right.

The actual text is a bit of direct speech from a character. I’m not saying it is great writing or that meaningful but it really isn’t that hard to spot the structure.

“Everything is concealed in symbolism, hidden by veils of mystery and layers of cultural material. But it is psychic data, absolutely. The large doors slide open, they close unbidden. Energy waves, incident radiation. All the letters and numbers are here, all the colors of the spectrum, all the voices and sounds, all the code words and ceremonial phrases. It is just a question of deciphering, rearranging, peeling off the layers of unspeakability. Not that we would want to, not that any useful purpose would be served. This is not Tibet. Even Tibet is not Tibet anymore”

It is easy to spot the randomised versions from the actual versions because the actual version is structured intelligibly. The person may be not saying anything very meaningful but they are doing so in a relatively natural way:

[Everything is concealed in symbolism]->[examples of different things (to demonstrate everything) being symbolic].  [How to respond to everything being symbolic]. [This not Tibet]<- [the start of the next idea which is then continued in the next bit of direct speech]

Now there is an absurdity to what is being said because while there is structure what follows each major idea is not well connected to it. So the orginal paragraph looks more meaningful than it actually is.

The randomised paragraphs don’t and hence look more obviously meaningless.

Here is some more obvious gibberish:

The gendlepucks of mishmosh tend to spinkle on a spockle: they spinkle here, they spinkle there. The sponkles are never found undecnkled. And woe betide anyone with a mishmosh at that time. Still most of gereretups cope with this well. Not that anyone should volunteer to do so. A mihyu may not be as bad but who wants the effort of bigulpoo the minglehop.

That paragraph is nonesense because many of the nouns and some verbs are just nonce words. Even so you can follow the paragraph. If I chopped into chunks and asked you to put it back together, you would get close to the original. Where to put the last sentence  might be tricky but otherwise you’d cope.

What is revealing is that VD thought his sentence re-arranging was a strong point when it isn’t. You can even regard the original passage as bad writing and still see that Vox doesn’t really understand how the writing functions – what is fits the higher level ‘grammar’ of speech and what doesn’t.


23 responses to “Can Vox Day Read?”

  1. There is something deeply off about Beale’s writing style, and there always has been–I noticed that back when I first encountered him during WND days when he was denying evolution. It does seem to be getting worse, largely because he’s insulated himself from any meaningful criticism.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. But how can you question his literary credentials when he has mentored that sterling master of prose, John C. Wright?

    Liked by 1 person

      • He and Wright are both very sad Victorian literature fanboys, with Wright clearly being a Chesteron fan who never realized that Chesteron is someone you have to outgrow. In Beale’s case, it’s hard not to get the idea he doesn’t even understand it when he reads it.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Oi! Nowt wrong with Victorian literature, thank you very much 😛

        (Well, there is clearly a lot wrong with a lot over Victorian literature but, um…)


  3. I knew better, but I went over to VD’s site. He’s got several posts on “bad writing,” and every single one of them is wrong.

    As Bob notes above, this explains much about VD’s own terrible prose. Also about his predilection for whatever that is JCW is doing.

    Liked by 2 people

    • And they are all *sincere*. He thinks he is making good points. Its not just trying to make cheap shots at others – this is stuff that he thinks is moving from bad writing to good writing and…it just isn’t.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Well, we know he doesn’t know how to Count. Or how to edit. So not knowing how to read isn’t exactly a huge leap of Aristotlean Logic.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. His demonstration doesn’t even make any sense the way he did it. The “correct” version is still heavily edited, chopped up and devoid of context.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This explains both the “editing” of John C. Wright (you maybe COULD rearrange his sentences in any order, or at least his adjectives and adverbs) and the larger question of why Puppies as a whole like their Nutty Nuggets with simple words, sentence structures, plots, and ideas. Maybe they just can’t understand more complex writing, so they reject it?

    Frankly, this paragraph was easier to understand than any given one of JCW’s; the individual words and sentences are pretty clear and it has the rhythm of how people actually speak.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes! I wonder if the ‘speak’ bit is the issue rather than the ‘read’. The para is weird but feels natural – whereas that Corroding Umpire book just didn’t flow even within a sentence.
      (I should note that JDA’s book doesn’t have this problem – it flows fine.)

      Liked by 1 person

    • Wright’s material is arranged? I thought he just, you know, threw an original 1805 edition of Roget’s Thesaurus into a wood chipper and glued what came out the other end to paper.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. That Teddy doesn’t understand the basic building blocks of writing goes a long way to explaining why a lot of what he writes and publishes is so incredibly bad.

    Just as a random note: if you sign up to the Castalia House mailing list he occasionally sends out free copies of books. I have a couple and… well… let’s just say they’re not among the finest examples of fiction to grace my Kindle.

    Liked by 2 people

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