Greg T. Spielberg

Copying Ben McGrath

In Uncategorized, writing on August 10, 2010 at 5:05 pm

Hunter Thompson famously copied The Great Gatsby to learn the architecture of Fitzgerald’s sentences. His cadence. The length of each sentence. His punctuation and commas, and the speed with which Fitzgerald unfolded information. It was probably like osmosis. Picking up patterns that repeated themselves as they have to throughout an entire book.

This is such a good idea, and I don’t hear about much. I used to play piano and violin in elementary and middle school, and sheet music was essential to picking up the tune. Even for Suzuki, the memorization method, we started off with sheet music.

I’m copying a Ben McGrath Talk of the Town piece from the New Yorker right now. I have trouble synthesizing information and breaking it down from disjointed pieces of information into a clean flow. Talk of the Towns move quickly (as stories in the best publications typically do), but they still have the textured images and details that make visualizing the scene very easy. I want to be able to do that.

I just got through the first paragraph of his short piece about leadership training at the Columbia School of Arts. I’m only through one paragraph, and it’s scary. It feels like plagiarism and seems like a waste of time. The plagiarism tenseness is like breathing underwater with scuba gear for the first time. My entire body — from my chest to my fingers — wants to pull away from the action, and my breathing got shallow. I think this will be good, though.


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