Monday, April 17, 2006

Defining Belles Lettres

What are the chances?

From A Word A Day:


So many channels, so little worth watching! Do you sometimes find yourself muttering those words? Next week is TV Turnoff Week ( http://tvturnoff.org/ ) so give that TV a well-deserved rest, and instead say: So many books worth reading, so little time!

People in the US watch TV for more than four hours a day. That's equivalent to sitting in front of a TV for two full months nonstop every year. It's not for nothing that TV has been called the plug-in drug, the boob tube, and the idiot box. For more, see factsheets: http://tvturnoff.org/factsheets.htm and research: http://tvturnoff.org/research.htm

It's time to redefine television, from Greek tele- (far) + Latin vision- (view), as something that deserved to be seen far, far away. Instead, get closer to books. Cut your screen time and increase your page time. This week we'll explore a few words from the world of books.

belles-lettres (bel-LET-ruh) noun

Literary works valued for their aesthetic qualities rather thaninformation or instruction.[From French belles (fine) + lettres (letters,
literature).]

-Anu Garg

"Unlike official or traditional poetry, the poetry of survival is not madeup of consolations but of solutions. Unlike our belles-lettres, this book is fact-dependent, not word-dependent." Miroslav Holub; The Invaders; Virus X: Tracking the New Killer Plagues; Los Angeles Times, Feb 2, 1997.

I often wondered if anyone other than former English majors who took that one semester of 18th C literature understood what I meant when I chose my moniker. Admittedly, I haven't lived up to my name. When I set it up, I meant for the site to explore, just a little, my love of all things epistolary (I am quite good at making my own stationary and love to read epistolary novels, poems, and The Letters of _____) and my love of literature. So far, no poems, famous letters, or book reviews posted yet. I've been reading a lot more non-fiction lately (mostly legal/political science academic texts). Just two years ago, this would have freaked me out and caused me to question my own identity. Now, ehhh. The law is important to me. And I'll get around to posting bits of A.S. Byatt's Possession and Ahdaf Soeuif's The Map of Love, passages from The Epistles of Burlington, and some excerpts of letters from famous authors soon enough.

But until then, you have the story behind the name. I am not just a lawyer. I have a bibliophile's soul. And whatever my own skill at writing poetry and my fear of being considered yet another Lawyer/Failed Poet, I am at least better than this guy. (Blech!) This is probably why I avoided Friday Poetry Blogging, even during April's National Poetry Month. You're better off reading some good Gerard Manley Hopkins or even Billy Collins.

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