My 3 Monsters: Verbosity

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6.17.2008

Verbosity

I love words. That explains why Dictionary.com is one of my favorite web sites. It explains why I love listening to people talk. It probably explains why I saw the word verbose on so many of my high school writing assignments. (And for those of you who may be wondering - ahem, Brent - verbose is not a compliment.) Anyway, I adore the writing of Lemony Snicket. If you have not read the Series of Unfortunate Events you should. I really could care less about the story line. He has this way of not only using wonderful words, but stringing them together to create these perfect visual images. I envy that talent. He is witty and folksy and altogether entertaining. Sometimes I laugh out loud and other times I sigh at the poignancy of it. It is everything I aspire to when I write. I have been reading his book Horseradish: Bitter Truths You Can't Avoid. It is (in his words) "a bouquet of alarming but inescapable truths" taken from his other works. It's not for everybody, I guess, but here are a few of my favorites:

"It is always sad when someone leaves home, Unless they are simply going around the corner and will return in a few minutes with ice-cream sandwiches."

"One's home is like a delicious piece of pie you order in a restaurant on a country road one cozy evening -- the best piece of pie you have ever eaten in your life -- and can never find again. After you leave home, you may find yourself feeling homesick, even if your new home has nicer wallpaper and a more efficient dishwasher than the home in which you grew up, and no matter how many times you visit you may never quite cure yourself of the fluttery, homesick feeling in your stomach. Homesickness can even strike you when you are still living at home, but a home that has changed over the years, and you long for the time -- even if such a time only existed in your imagination -- when your home was as delicious as you remember. You may search your family and your mind -- just as you might search dark and winding country roads -- trying to recapture the best time in your life, so that you might cure your homesickness with a second slice of that distant faraway pie, but your search will end in vain, as you have lost the map that told you where to turn, and the restaurant has long ago burned down, and the baker who made the pie has gotten tired of waiting for you and has devoted her life to making tomato paste instead, but she is no good at it, and now you are lost in life, the darkness closing in on you, with nothing but a sad flutter in your stomach and a sour acidic taste in your mouth."

"Perhaps if we saw what was ahead of us, and glimpsed the crimes, follies, and misfortunes that would befall us later on, we would all stay in our mother's wombs, and then there would be nobody in the world but a great number of very fat, very irritated women."

"One day, when your mother is yelling at you, you might begin to hear a tiny voice in your head that will tell you that you are right and your mother is wrong. Over the years this voice might get louder and louder, and you might find that you prefer listening to this voice instead of your mother's voice, particularly if she has been yelling at you this whole time."

"If you try to avoid every instance of peer pressure you will end up without any peers whatsoever, and the trick is to succumb to enough pressure that you do not drive your peers away, but not so much that you end up in a situation in which you are dead or otherwise uncomfortable. This is a difficult trick, and most people never master it, and end up dead or uncomfortable at least once during their lives."

"What happens in a certain place can stain your feelings for that location, just as ink can stain a white sheet. You can wash it, and wash it, and still never forget what has transpired, a word which here means 'happened and made everybody sad'."

I could probably go on all night. I just love it all. It is even more wonderful in the context of the stories. Because of Lemony Snicket the phrase "a word which here means . . " has become a common one in our house. Any author who can teach my kids the word misnomer so that they can use it correctly in everyday conversation is a good author in my book.

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