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.