I Can't Imagine Ever Using This Construction

8.16.2006
Ore : 7:09 AM

(OT EARTHSHATTERING UPDATE BELOW!)

As I've hinted occasionally in the past, I'm working on a novel. This project has got me thinking about language a great deal, and in a lot of nit-picky ways. When reading, I find myself sharply sensitive to such tiny things -- things that might even have been simple typos that got jammed in just prior to printing -- things like misplaced colons, mispelled words, or jarring and ill-advised choices in adverbs.

And I've been reading a tremendous amount. I've still got my yen for non-fiction, and, just as I did when I was a wee sapling, I continue to attack my massive Webster's Unabridged like a fat kid faced with a box of Ding-Dongs. But I've also been consuming a great deal of fiction. Of course, I've been rereading (and enjoying for the first time) classics: Hemingway, Dickens, Conrad, the Brontë sisters' greatest hits, Austen, et al. In addition, I've been kickin' it live with a lot of middle-brow and aspiring-to-middlebrow tomes.

Now, there's plenty of crap out there. We all know this. Some of it purely unreadable, much of it not: even as I'm blisteringly aware of what makes a certain author sub-par, I can appreciate the sheer effort that went into a certain book, and even applaud when an author who might be in over his head prevails and rises above his or her native limitations. One guilty pleasure I've been enjoying is Stephen R. Donaldson.

The man's work is clearly weekend-at-the-beach material. Not dreck, but far from transcendent (for that matter, so is mine -- don't think for a minute I'm under the illusion that I'm the next Nabokov.) I'm just starting the final book in his "Gap" series, "Gap Into Ruin: This Day All Gods Die." There's some hackneyed stuff, some too-precious internal dialogue (can you really get away with a character using "forsooth" these days, even ironically?), and more. The prose is for the most part workmanlike -- he's definitely no Gene Wolfe. He really shines, however, in his plotting (specifically, in creating intricate intrigues) and overall characterization. My standards aren't high -- or rather, they are, but I often choose not to adhere to them. Donaldson passes the time well enough.

But last night I came across this: "Uncertainties proliferated like ecstasy, weaving unknowns out of the quantum mechanics of the known." At first blush, it may read nicely enough, but pay attention to that first clause: "Uncertainties proliferated like ecstasy..."

Really, what the hell?

I mean, with my greater sensitivity to language comes a deepening insecurity with my own imagination and abilities, and I'm wondering if I'm missing something here. Certainly, uncertainties may proliferate, but how do they proliferate "like ecstasy"? Does he mean they proliferate ecstatically? Can they do that? Or does he mean they proliferate with exuberance? Or is he using "ecstasy" in an ancient Greek religious sense, in the sense of achieving some pagan mystery? Can such ecstasies proliferate, and should he have written "Uncertainties proliferated like ecstasies..."? Or is this a poeticism, meant to convey something by and with its inherent irrationality that could not otherwise be conveyed?

Or is it just that, as an author, he's not all that and a bag of chips?

Just what am I not getting here? Someone help me out, please.

OT EARTHSHATTERING UPDATE: One of the Intertube's
biggest studs is BACK!!!

posted by teh l4m3 at 7:09 AM | Permalink |

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Comments for I Can't Imagine Ever Using This Construction
Now, there's plenty of crap out there.

Are you talking about the choads?

You totally have to talk to TLB, of Brando and Co. She wrote a book that is currently available on Amazon.

I read 4/6 of SRD's White Gold series and I was not all that impressed. Part of it was that I missed the middle books of the two trilogies and didn't feel like I had missed anything important.

Don't get me wrong -- the Mordant's Need books kinda sucked butt. The Gap series is a marginal improvement. Like I said, he passes the time.

That one construction though is really bothering me...

...things like misplaced colons, mispelled words, or jarring and ill-advised choices in adverbs.

Sorry: I've been torturing you for over a year now.

Not you, noodlehead. ;)

I misplaced my colon once.

Sorry, I can't help you. I rarely encounter ecstasy, so I wouldn't know it if it proliferated all up in my, um, colon.

But then, there was this one time...

Maybe his neighbor cooked it up in the basement.

What's the novel about?

LOL @ Elmo. I felt the same guilt.

madame: I think that's called a prolapse

tw: I saw that in Martha Stewart's Prison cookbook -- it was called Dahmer's Delight.

ptcruiser: I don't know why. We're blogging. All of us do stupid stuff even when we try to reread extra carefully.

Maybe he means the drug?
It would make sense grammatically.

Ooh, snap, never thought of that. But then, this is a sci-fi novel -- is he positing that people are using MDMA in the far-flung future? Also, I think this was published long before ecstasy as in "rollin' on E" ever became a household word...

He might be suggesting the onrush of ecstasy, how it begins small and expands rapidly to take over everyting. It would fit with the rest of the sentence.

I suppose. But if he's doing that, it's a rather clumsy reach.

Or maybe I'm too literal minded and should just go with the flow...

In any case, fish, I think you've just about grokked it.

Oh, tornwordo: Sorry: The novel's the last in a sci-fi franchise, informed greatly by the author's reading of Wagner's Ring Cycle and the legend of Siegfried. It's actually about a lot of things. The first book starts out with a nasty character who kidnaps and repeatedly rapes a policewoman, who in turn escapes him to run off with his rival. In the second book, she's forced with alien technology to have a son, and she ends up betraying (for good reasons) her putative rescuer... And it goes on and on. The first novel was rather schematic, but the plot quickly grows rather intricate during the second book...

I suppose. But if he's doing that, it's a rather clumsy reach.

Yeah it certainly isn't getting him into the bonus round, but at least he has a year's supply of Rice a Roni.

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