Sarah Avery (dr_pretentious) wrote,
Sarah Avery
dr_pretentious

Stylishly Incorrect

One of my Tai Chi instructors has come up with a new way to describe a problem that's especially common among women who are just beginning to study Tai Chi. Those of us who were subjected in childhood to ballet lessons--even briefly, even unwillingly--default to the old ballet positions when anything we're learning in the form resembles them. But Tai Chi is not ballet, and "knees released" does not mean "plie." Just this week, the teachers have begun to call such errors "stylishly incorrect." And they say it with some admiration, since the senior master at the school spent her youth as a professional dancer. Nonetheless, incorrect is incorrect.

How useful her phrase would have been to my pedagogy when I was a teacher.

Needless to say, I thought immediately of my writing when I heard this wonderful description of the mistake I kept making in Swan Wakes Up and Eagle Takes Flight. (I love the names of Tai Chi moves.) It gave me a new way of thinking about how my experiences learning to write poetry and literary criticism under hifalutin conditions may be misleading me, now that I am writing genre fiction.

Of course, Tai Chi is a martial art, and I have learned from my Sifu (the former Broadway chorus girl) that the true assessment of correct form can be found through the question, "How can this move kill?"

All right, so there's no true assessment of correct form in matters of popular entertainment. Plenty of lasting successes in writing, high and low, have been stylishly incorrect. (I'm thinking of H.P. Lovecraft and Ezra Pound, but you probably have examples of your own already.) It's not entirely clear to me what resonance this phrase will have in my revision of the manuscript, but it still feels like just the tool I needed today.
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