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September 04, 2008


Reginald Harris

FYI: That's the opening line of "One Hundred Years of Solitude", not "Love/Cholera"

Joshua Henkin

Reginald--You're right, of course. Thanks for catching that; my brain is fried at the end of this long day. I've changed it.

Gwen Dawson

Interesting post, but this sentence has been translated from Spanish, so certain things are not the same in the original (such as the shortness of the word ice).


I have that tingling sensation (peeved/automatic sympathy for the writer) of having one of my pet topics (The greatness of this first sentence) produced for the world to see by someone else. But then, a few other people have read this book as well, haven't they?
As for the shortness of the word ice, I never saw it as important, more as an helper to the the verb which comes before it, which is much more significant. And that verb (to discover) is also the one word which is translated differently, I always thought. The original verb in Spanish, "conocer" is more akin in my mind in this context to "to know" and I that is the crux for me - "to know ice" is a synonyn for knowing anything which our modern world takes for granted, but on a scale almost absurd.
Sorry if this is a bit long-winded, but again, you just used one of my favorite little rants.

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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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