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William Zinsser: On Writing Well

Journalist and writing teacher William Zinsser says in his book, On Writing Well: “I’m occasionally asked if I can recall a moment when I knew I wanted to be a writer. No such blinding flash occurred. I only knew that I thought I would like to work for a newspaper.”

Zinsser, who was born on this day 92 years ago, on October 7, 1922, got his wish. He worked for the newspaper of his dreams – the New York Herald Tribune – before teaching writing at Yale, at the New School and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. His book, On Writing Well, is a classic guide for non-fiction writing. First published in 1976, it’s still relevant today. [click to continue…]

TS Eliot, ‘mixing memory and desire’

TS Eliot

TS Eliot

Today is the birthday of TS Eliot (September 26, 1888 – January 4, 1965). I still remember how strange and romantic it felt when I first read The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock in my last or penultimate year in high school.

Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherised upon a table…

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Behind the success of Singapore universities

Congratulations, Nanyang Technological University. NTU is now No 1 among all the universities in the world that are less than 50 years old, according to the Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings. The question now: Will the university have more Singaporean postgraduates?

  “It can be difficult to encourage Singaporeans to choose the academic path. At Nanyang, for example, just 30 per cent of the postgraduates are locals,” David Matthews wrote in the Times Higher Education (THE) in November last year.

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The metrical foot: Foot and meter in poetry

I just came across this poem by Coleridge explaining metrical feet, the unit of measurement in poetry. He wrote it for his son, Derwent.

 A metrical foot is a set of syllables, usually two or three, only one of which is normally stressed, as in the words, po´-em and po´-et-ry. The first syllable is stressed in both these words when we say them. Poetry was meant to be recited, read aloud, so syllables count. A set of two syllables is called a trochee when the first syllable is stressed, as in po´-em. A set of three syllables is called a dactyl when the first syllable is stressed, as in po´-et-ry. The words come from Latin and Greek, like poem and poetry.

Here is Coleridge’s poem.

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The Autobiography of an Unknown Indian

Nirad C Chaudhuri

Nirad C Chaudhuri

He was more than 50 years old when his first book was published; he moved from Delhi to Oxford when he was 73 and died there in 1999 at the ripe old age of 101.

Nirad C Chaudhuri was an extraordinary man. His first book, The Autobiography of an Unknown Indian, was hailed by VS Naipaul as perhaps “the one great book to have come out of the Indo-British encounter”.

Chaudhuri was “possibly the finest Indian writer of English in the whole of the 20th century,” says Ian Jack in his foreword to the autobiography, “and certainly the finest in the first three quarters of it before the burst of Indian writing in English that followed the publication of Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children.” [click to continue…]