Jose Carillo's Forum


This section features links to interesting, instructive, or thought-provoking readings about the English language and related disciplines. The selections could be anywhere from light and humorous to serious and scholarly, and they range widely from the reading, writing, listening, and speaking disciplines to the teaching and learning of English.

Relishing a writer’s distinctive art of choreographing sentences

In “Metaphors, Take Flight,” an essay that he wrote for the December 21, 2012 issue of The New York Times, English and history teacher Bill Pahlka takes delight in the practice of some literary critics to celebrate, mimic, or otherwise skewer the distinctive architecture or choreography of a writer’s sentences through what he calls an “aphoristic little art form without a name.”

As examples of critics who occasionally use the genre, Pahlka cites one who deemed novelist Saul Bellow’s sentences “double-breasted,” another who commented that novelist Norman Mailer’s “footwork is fanciest when he gets to style,” a third who described novelist Elmore Leonard’s prose as “long looping twisting strings of words that turn around and back up and go the other way,” and a fourth who wrote that the clauses of novelist Martin Amis “clash and spin away from each other like balls on a pool table.” No matter what the critic’s motivation is in coming up with them, Pahlka says, “these figurative sketches are always illuminating, and they provide a small literary pleasure of their own along the way.”

Read Bill Pahlka’s “Metaphors, Take Flight” in The New York Times now!

In “Lies! Murder! Lexicography!”, an article that came out in the December 2, 2012 issue of The New York Times, American linguist Ben Zimmer is critical of the mass media’s tendency to cook up “wildly off-the-mark coverage” and sensational scandal headlines even for such unglamorous professions as lexicography or dictionary-making. He was particularly miffed when the British newspaper The Guardian broke a story that began in this wise: “An eminent former editor of the Oxford English Dictionary covertly deleted thousands of words because of their foreign origins and bizarrely blamed previous editors.” But the truth, Zimmer says, was more prosaic and far from being scandalous that it was bruited to be, “but who wants to hear such details when the bad-news headline is juicier, or at least can be spun that way through shoddy journalism?”

Read Ben Zimmer’s “Lies! Murder! Lexicography!” in The New York Times now!

In “The Power of Concentration,” an opinion piece that came out in the December 15, 2012 issue of The New York Times, Maria Konnikova, writer and Columbia University psychology doctoral candidate, says that although mindfulness as a concept originates in ancient Buddhist, Hindu and Chinese traditions, in experimental psychology it is “less about spirituality and more about concentration: the ability to quiet your mind, focus your attention on the present, and dismiss any distractions that come your way.” She thinks that fictional detective Sherlock Holmes’s approach to thought—“ throwing his brain out of action” by doing nothing more than sit back in his leather chair, close his eyes and put together his long-fingered hands in an attitude that begs silence—captures the very thing that cognitive psychologists mean when they say “mindfulness.”

Read Maria Konnikova’s “The Power of Concentration” in The New York Times now!

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