diction or vocabulary

Richard Ford’s ‘Canada’

September 14, 2012 | 12 Comments

A retrospective narrator gives a masterful novel the feel of memoir. Canada by Richard Ford. HarperCollins, 420 pp. . . . “Canada” is blessed with two essential strengths in equal measure — a mesmerizing story driven by authentic and fully realized characters, and a prose style so accomplished it is tempting to read each sentence two or three times before being pulled to the next.—Andre Dubus III in his Times review I’m reading two memoirs now, one an immersion and the other …

[Read More]

Rampant use of the term ‘narrative’

November 15, 2011 | 2 Comments

I want to raise the question of what the world thinks “narrative” means, what educated media commentators and writers mean by it, and what relationship does the widespread use of “narrative” have to do with the use of the term narrative journalism?—Gerald Grow, “The Invasion of the Term ‘Narrative’ “ Gerald Grow, now retired, a Shakespeare scholar who ended up teaching journalism at Florida A & M University, keeps an eclectic and useful web site about writing and teaching. It brims …

[Read More]

Igniting your need for words

July 3, 2011 | 7 Comments

From Richard Hugo’s The Triggering Town: Lectures and Essays on Poetry and Writing: It doesn’t bother me that the word ‘stone’ appears more than thirty times in my third book, or that ‘wind’ and ‘gray’ appear over and over in my poems to the disdain of some reviewers. If I didn’t use them that often I’d be lying about my feelings, and I consider that unforgivable. In fact, most poets write the same poem over and over again. Wallace Stevens …

[Read More]

Nabokov’s ‘Speak, Memory,’ ver. 2.0

January 28, 2011 | 3 Comments

Olga Khotiashova responded to my review of Vladimir Nabokov’s memoir Speak, Memory by posting as a comment a lovely essay, which I have also featured as a guest post, below; it unites her personal history with her reading of the book and with literary and political analysis. A mathematician by education, she now lives in Houston. Reflections on Vladimir Nabokov’s Speak, Memory by a Russian native speaker recently immigrated to the USA By Olga Khotiashova I read the famous Lolita …

[Read More]

Dinty W. Moore: revise & discover

September 9, 2010 | 3 Comments

“Too often, in my opinion, beginning writers focus on what point they want to make, what the message will be in their writing, the ‘theme’ or ‘thesis,’ whereas the seasoned and successful writers that I know are always after what they can discover. Being too sure of what you want to say from the outset can be a bad thing in writing—you just end up re-stating the obvious.” “If you want to be a writer, you have to love to write, …

[Read More]

Wot the quid, mon?

May 6, 2010 | 3 Comments

From my son’s blog, Kierkegaard in Me, I’ve learned the word quiddity: the quality that makes a thing what it is; the essential nature of a thing. 2. a trifling nicety of subtle distinction, as in argument. (Unless noted, definitions here are from Dictionary.com.) Wikipedia elaborates: It describes properties a particular substance (e.g. a person) shares with others of its kind. The question “what (quid) is it?” asks for a general description by way of commonality. This is quiddity or …

[Read More]

Offutt’s guide to literary terms

April 25, 2010 | 3 Comments

“nonfiction: Prose that is factual, except for newspapers. “creative nonfiction: Prose that is true, except in the case of memoir. “memoir: From the Latin memoria, meaning “memory,” a popular form in which the writer remembers entire passages of dialogue from the past, with the ultimate goal of blaming the writer’s parents for his current psychological challenges. “novel: A quaint, longer form that fell out of fashion with the advent of the memoir. “short story: An essay written to conceal the …

[Read More]