It’s All Ordinary

I hate to sound like a cynic, but in initially reading Text Book, I didn’t buy Pratt’s views of natural narrative, opening with “We think of literature as something special, as something above or beyond the way we use language in our daily lives— and so, in certain respects, it is.” (p. 2) I think this is an unfair assumption to take on that most people view literature as unattainable compared to ordinary speech. I had a difficult time agreeing with Pratt and seeing how all of the requirements according to Labov on p. 7 must be considered for a natural narrative to be complete. We can see even from WCW’s “The Use of Force,” with a lack of abstract and evaluation, that this is not always the case.
Perhaps, it’s because of my access to literature and writing courses, where I was taught dialogue in relation to ordinary speech and iambic pentameter as representation of natural speech. In my undergraduate fiction course, I was taught to write dialogue as it occurs naturally in real life. My professor gave us a short story by Hemmingway as an example of how the conversation between the two characters passes over one another.
I think most of the writing exercises that follow the excerpts in this book would be useful in a classroom setting. Although some of them I couldn’t necessarily relate to the intention of the book to show how ordinary written and spoken language is similar to literary language. As a writer, I think this is understood and unavoidable.
However, the exercise on page 46 to develop a story from the news article intrigued me as being the first exercise to support the intention of the book. Imaginative writing is stemming from ordinary language, instead of imaginative writing stemming from other imaginative writing or ordinary language stemming from imaginative writing. I think this would be a valuable approach for teaching writing.