Youmans (pronounced like 'yeoman' with an 's' added) is the best-kept secret
among contemporary American writers. --John Wilson, editor, Books and Culture Marly Youmans is a novelist and poet out of sync with the times
but in tune with the ages. --First Things

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

From the Palace Chamber of Speculative Information, Strange Flesch, and Fog Indexes: The Wolf Pit

With fanfare and dancing boys, has entered into the realm of the fantastic:

The most common 100 words in The Wolf Pit are:
aemilia again against agate air along although another arms away bird book boys brother came child children come cousin day dead down even eyes face fanny fields first get girl go good green ground hair hand head himself home horse house knew know last little long looked man marly mary master men might miss mother mouth mr name nash new night nothing now old once own pit place robin rose said saw see seemed side slaves soldiers something still thing thomas thought three time tit told toward trees two virginia water williamson without wolf woman words world years youmans young

The conclusion one draws from this is that if you are the sort of person who likes words like these, you might just like The Wolf Pit, a perfectly grand book that won the Shaara Award and was short-listed for the Southern Book Award but unfortunately arrived on the burning heels of 9-11. (That's not even to mention J. Franzen's heels, keeping my publisher and Oprah so very occupied that fall. Now you take out one foot out of your mouth, now the other... And the departing heels of my editor went flashing by as well.) Where were we when we took that detour into the Black Forest of knobby roots that look like heels and toes? Ah, yes. If you feel a mystical connection with the 100 words, or if any one of them--say, death, mother, young, world, woman, child, house, or book--seems to have even the barest connection to your life, then rush out and buy a copy, won't you?

The Fog index for The Wolf Pit: 9.8
According to Amazon, this means that at the point one has finished 80 percent of the ninth grade--no less, not even a teensy bit less!--one will be perfectly equipped to read The Wolf Pit. Before the school year progresses further, pilfer a copy from your nearest bookstore and present it to a child who has passed beyond the barrier of 9.8. That will be a clear and lucid act, one that will have nothing of fog about it anywhere. Interesting, isn't it? The paradox of the thing...

Dr. Rudolph Flesch's Famous Readability test: The Wolf Pit scores 69.1!
Whew! That's a definite relief! While I can't appeal to 5th graders, who need a score of 90 to 100, I am quite safe from tumbling down into the "fleschy" 0 to 30 slot, a circle of hell where one must have a college education! I feel All Over Exclamatory!

Did I mention that this is not a book for children?

Flesch & Fog combined, the marriage of the fleshly and the ethereal: 8.1
All recommendations prior to this are OFF. By hook, by crook, by trembling tenterhook, I conjure you to buy this book-- for your eighth-grader, of course, who at this point in the year has matured safely past the first ten percent of eighth-grade schooling, even if he hasn't been paying a whole lot of attention.

A mere 7% of The Wolf Pit is composed of "complex" words of three syllables or more. In fact, most of the words in the book are made from precisely 1.4 syllables, according to the handy graph provided by the Amazonian bookseller.

And now I congratulate the one-breasted woman warrior on her new innovation. I positively fawn on the weirdness, fantasy, and general quirk of the thing. I especially like the "words/ounce 6,377," masterful in its mystery.

And now, my dear Lady Amazon, could you please, please, please post my wonderful (and pleasingly long) Diana Wynne Jones quote on my Ingledove page? Before the pub date (May 7, I remind you)? And before the river of your name with its muscular currents and cunning piranha carries me away?

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Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.