Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Better Than Good. And Even Best.

Mark Twain urged caution about choosing the right adjective. He said "A man's character may be learned from the adjectives which he habitually uses in conversation." If you listen to how people talk, you know what he means. The same can be said of how a writer writes: check out his adjectives. For me, that's one of the most difficult parts of writing (hardest? stressful? laborious?) And too many times I find myself drifting back toward the old stand-by's "good" and "great" and "fast" and "tall." All those vague and tired words. (Are "vague" and "tired" vague and tired? I don't know.)

So it was with relief that I came across, while enjoying a bowl of Shredded Wheat, some marvelous adjectives in a recent New Yorker magazine. "They sure have a way with adjectives," I thought. "I should share these." So, here they are. They were used in the magazine's capsule reviews of "Recitals." I don't know why I was looking in Recitals. I'm not interested in going to one. Most of them are painfully long. And I don't even have plans to go to New York. Shows you how Shredded Wheat can dull the mind.

First there was an "admired violinist" from Japan at Zankel Hall. I wonder who admired him.
Then there was "The superb Baroque ensemble" at Columbia University. I firmly believe that a Baroque ensemble must be "superb" at the minimum to hold an audience for more than six minutes.
Next was the "magisterial pianist"who has thrilled audiences for more than four decades. He's at Carnegie. Is he "magisterial" in the way he plays? Or maybe how he walks or how he dresses. In a cape, perhaps.
Their imagination began to wane here, because the next act was a "superb young British foursome" doing their thing at Alice Tully Hall. I assume "superb" is the minimum price of entry into these pages.
After that came "the renowned group"that performed music by 3 composers I've never heard of, also at Alice Tully Hall. Again, renowned where? New York? London? Zaire?
And finally we have "three distinguished keyboard colleagues" appearing with "the musical major-domo" of something or other. I'm not sure what a "major-domo" is, but it's got to be worth seeing.

You've got to admit, those are better choices of descriptors than "interesting" or "fine" or "really good," even surpassing "popular" and "cool." All you need is the right word to fire the public's interest. Again, to quote Twain: "The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between  lightning and a lightning bug." Ladies and gentlemen, choose your words.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Spring Snow: A Long Winter's Tale

I've been sitting here for several minutes, feeling the urge to post something, wanting to say something poetic and uplifting about what I see out my window right now. But I'm not up to the task. I've seen the scene too many times in the past 3 months. Feels more like 6. And there is still white stuff coming down. If I truly had the soul of a poet, I could find comfort and beauty in the scene. Like, say something about delicate dusting of pine trees with nature's frosting. Or the silent drift of countless snowflakes blanketing the lawn, covering up little yellow flowers that no longer stand a chance at making it to summer. Even confusing the robins, making them think they returned to the wrong latitude. I wonder if robins like frozen worms. We'll find out.  To show you what an optimist I am, I dashed outside mid-week, when the sun was out and the temperature hovered in the high 60's, uncovered our deck furniture and arranged it to welcome Spring in all its glory. It's like throwing a big party and nobody comes. I should know by now: you don't do a thing for spring in St. Louis until mid-April. Still, with global warming in full swing, I thought, sure, we'll have an early spring. Notice I can't bring myself around to capitalizing S(s)pring every time. It's unworthy.
News flash: These photos are outdated. The snow is even deeper now. I think I'll listen to some music, pull out some old standards, like "Spring will be a little late this year," and "Spring can really hang you up the most." Yep, I'm hung up. That's what I'll do now.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Final Frontier: e-books

MAJOR LITERARY ANNOUNCEMENT: With the help of an excellent book designer, Cathy Wood, I am happy to say my novel is available as an e-book. Which means my words can now be carried in a Kindle or iPad or Droid or wherever the hell these things end up. And think of all the trees that will be saved. The title, as you probably know by now, is "Shadow and Substance: My Time with Charlie Chaplin."