April 23, 2008



You know, not to be picky, but there's a lack of poetry in there:

"Hot, garlicky, juices fired into his mouth as he bit into it"

The juices fired into in his mouth? Really? From a meat juice cannon, just like in a commercial for hot dogs? And when they fired, was it a steady steam? Or was it packetized like photons of juice light? Or was it really just an unnecessary analogy/anthropomorphism/metaphowhatever?


must beg to differ matt - have had many a kebab just like the one described and the description is dead on. the sensation when the pressure of your bite releases the juices really is "firing" ... making me hungry thinking about it!


Is this supposed to be an example of an elegant variation?

"that pink tender flesh in the middle give up its structure to a delicious mulch."


I've got to agree with Matt. The passage does nothing for me. "Delicious" and "extraordinary" are exactly the kind of empty adjectives it's vital to avoid when describing a sensual experience, and "aromatic delight" simply isn't grammatically correct. The delight isn't aromatic, the meat is. I can usually forgive these kind of false notes if a passage has other things going for it, but here there are too many in too small a space to ignore. Though maybe I just like kebabs too much to let such treatment pass.


Jesus. Can someone explain this current obsession with precise documentation of the mundane? I'd take one intelligent, brilliantly maddening, yet overwrought story by Borges over twenty by an author who can vividly evoke the experience of noshing on a kebab.

Also, I think EG's comment with regard to the grammatically incorrect phrase "aromatic delight" is the perfect example of the worst sort of criticism, the kind rampant in workshops.

Regardless of how frustrated I am with value placed on empty evocation, I do think the passage quoted is decent. Who in the world (apart from robotic copy editors) reads anything so closely that the aesthetic value of a passage is marred by a slight grammatical error?

Kill yourself.


One might call it the Nabokovian obsession/accumulation of detail, minus the Nabokovian genius behind it.


Hey, "aromatic delight" wasn't my comment. No workshopping for me.


When did proper English grammar become the (disparaged) domain of workshop criticism? Yikes.


Sorry, EG! That's my mistake.

Shya, please kill yourself.


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  • The Elegant Variation is "Fowler’s (1926, 1965) term for the inept writer’s overstrained efforts at freshness or vividness of expression. Prose guilty of elegant variation calls attention to itself and doesn’t permit its ideas to seem naturally clear. It typically seeks fancy new words for familiar things, and it scrambles for synonyms in order to avoid at all costs repeating a word, even though repetition might be the natural, normal thing to do: The audience had a certain bovine placidity, instead of The audience was as placid as cows. Elegant variation is often the rock, and a stereotype, a cliché, or a tired metaphor the hard place between which inexperienced or foolish writers come to grief. The familiar middle ground in treating these homely topics is almost always the safest. In untrained or unrestrained hands, a thesaurus can be dangerous."


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