Odd books that lend a hand

Well crap, I guess this is where I’m going to let my ‘daft-but-willing’ tee-shirt hang out. If you hear a nattering voice as you read, it’ll be mothers of the world yelling, “For crying out loud tuck that shirt in”

Yeah, well I admit there are times when the bell simply doesn’t ring for me. Pull out a math book, start the calculations and watch me slither out the exit door. Start explaining compound sentences/adjectives, collective nouns, or infinitives, and lord have mercy, best watch for immediate brain bleed ’cause it’s going to happen.

I just want to write; Plain and simple. Write, write and write some more. But even after numerous courses and owning a shelf full of how-to books I still find myself fighting the little ego-based muse beast that perches on my right shoulder whispering doomsday huff and puff in my ear. No wonder I have headaches. He’s got bad breath, whiskers, dandruff and mean beady little eyes and a voice that would knock barnacles off a giraffe. (Hey—the giraffe could have fallen off Noah’s Ark – right?)

Recently, feeling like a dull, stupid writer, I was checking out my stash (books) and come across a hum-dinger called The Dimwit’s Dictionary by Robert Hartwell Fiske. Now remember what I said about wearing my special tee-shirt? I think I had it on when I discovered the book because the first thing I read, which was on the front cover, was a critique from a William Safire of the New York Times. He wrote, “Fishe shows how to make the turgid crisp…”

Wait—I thought a turgid was a cold-water fish!

But somehow I doubted he was telling us Robert knew how to cook a fish so I snagged up a dictionary and discovered that turgid means something unhealthily, or abnormally, swollen. Now that’s a sweet picture; crisping up a bloat. So obviously William meant that Robert clarifies the complicated. Wonder why he didn’t just say that? And yes, wearing said shirt I still went ahead and bought it.

The Dimwit’s is a small dose book—meaning it is too much in large reading portions, and yet I’ve found it to be a weirdly helpful book. Robert explains infantile phrases, inescapable pairs, moribund metaphors, grammatical gimmicks, plebeian sentiments, quack equations and so, so much more. For those of us liking to overuse metaphors or fill our works with dull redundancy it’s a peculiarly worthwhile book to have on hand. It’ll show you stuff you never, as a writer, could have imagined on your own and….beside, I don’t know anyone who couldn’t use a little crisping on their turgid bits…

And now, after all those big words and thoughts, I need a brain rub.

Ciao for now

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