Tuesday, November 24, 2020

The Word PrettyThe Word Pretty by Elisa Gabbert
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Word Pretty does talk about the word "pretty" and how it has come to mean less than beautiful, more of a disparagement than a compliment, "she's a pretty little thing." Elisa Gabbert discusses words and writing in this smart, amusing collection of essays. She tackles notebooks ("I should invest in nice notebooks, strategically, so I'll use them more often."), names of paintings, ambiguities in line breaks in poetry, the pleasures of front matter such as introductions, translators notes, the epigraph, i.e. highlighting Howards End "only connect." Book titles are scattered throughout, many of which I have on my list but enticing new TBRs. She discusses James Salter's sentences in a piece on punctuation, digressions in essays by Tennessee Williams. Although she is a writer of essays and poems, the novel is her "desert island getaway" but she never writes fiction. The "introspective first person" is her narrative mode of choice, as it is mine. She enjoys scattershot plots like those of Javier Marías & Miranda July. She's obsessed with books about people who ruin their own lives such as Two Serious Ladies by Jane Bowles, Broken River or The Awakening. She has an essay on titles and feels spondees make the best titles: White Noise, Jane Eyre, Bleak House. Poems can use a phrase from the poem worth highlighting as a title. And she finishes by reminding us of Elmore Leonard's 10 Rules of Writing's "If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it." As a writer and reader, I thorough enjoyed this collection.

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