And Gutenberg Lived Here: Of Pace And Pacing

One of the literary theories I like most,

and find most applicable to life,

is that you can create an atmosphere

by changing the pace of what you are doing.

Umberto Eco was an expert at this-

see the Name of the Rose.

Real Life in those days,


was considered a metronome marking

(they didn’t have them then,

I am just using this for sake of discussion)

of under sixty.

If you want to try it, take out a watch with a sweep-second hand,

or count

one Mississippi, two Mississippi,

(not totally accurate if you are from New York-

or Mississippi)

and take a step for each second.

Now take up The Name Of The Rose and read it.

While walking.


Then there is Shakespeare.

Who walked regularly from London to Stratford-

elapse time just over two hours-

On foot, gasp.

He didn’t use a rowing machine, nautilus, or a weight machine,

drive a Segway,

motorcycle with side-car,

robot driven electric car,

a bike with an extra motor,

he walked.

And read books.

(Not delivered by Amazon)

And experienced things.

And thought.

And discussed with his brother,

who apparently  was also a player in his company for a while,

and whose child he was the godfather of,

after his son Hamnet,

one of the twins he was so fascinated by,

to the point of writing a play about two sets of them,

unfortunately died.

Besides, while walking he could people watch,

and keep an eye out for good things in the woods,

to eat

or to write about.

Like deer.

Or Arden(t) lovers.

(Hark, what light is that I see before me-

say soothe-

be it perhaps a Starbucks?)

And then, since we are on the subject, there is Gutenberg.

Whose life was more than a wee bit crazy,

what with being hooked up with Fust,

a businessman with not a whole lot of scruples,

who some claim was the basis for Dr. Faustus, modern version.

And then there was Mr G’s time on the run from the church,

whose priests weren’t particularly happy he was printing,

and making commonplace the single basis of their power,

after politics, of course.

Oh, and then there was his battle with:

the plague,

running from quarantine-

a penalty of death crime-

a few small run-ins with the local patricians…

Not really a contemplative life, when you think about it.

Make that, metronome marking near to explosion and temperature rising.

So what does this have to do with literature-

Like Marion Robert Morrison,

who is always John Wayne,

or Lon Chaney,

the man of a thousand faces,

who is everyone but,

Lon Chaney I mean,

there are writers,

like Agatha Christie,

who always write the lovable readable decent and soothing  same stuff-

(style, form, small variations on content-

not that I am knocking it.

How many Christies are there today ?)

Or always have a certain  recurring pattern,

the country house or locked room murder,

or recurring topos,

ie the seven percent solution,

or mysterious appearances by ex-avengers,

or catch phrases

“Yes, that sleigh is bigger on the inside than the outside”

a sort of guaranteed belonging,

through insider joke-recognition factor,

in Sherlock,

or the latest Dr Whos-

despite the writers’ more than talented reach  for the ultimate writers’ high-

ie to shock everyone by how far you can  push the envelope.

Despite uncomfortableness by the actors, producers, directors-

script editors

you get the picture-

and I will never forget the shock when I read that a certain book editor

favored writers who turn out books

like perfect little cookies,

cut by cookie cutters,

and all ready to print.

And then there are writers

who turn out completely different characters for each book.

Easiest when you have a central theme, like different psychological problems.

Or a famous writer who made each of her characters a figure from the Norton anthology of

English history which characters happened to teach courses at her university.

A truly brilliant idea.

Imagine going on a date with Beowulf.

For the rest of us, though,

the non-Moffit, Agatha, Doyle, etc types,

there is the final choice of pace in writing

and living-


General Pace,

a devout Mormon,

with enough children to put Ancestry on alert,

and the man who lost his life winning the famous Christmas evening

Battle of New Orleans.

Now THAT was some pacing.

copyright 2017

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s