Saturday, June 12, 2010

Speaking of Words

I love words.  Every morning when I log onto my computer I have a word of the day waiting for me in my inbox.  I own no fewer than eight dictionaries, including the complete twenty volume Oxford English Dictionary (which, I am proud to say, I got for a song).  I marvel at beautiful language; whether it is plain and straightforward or ornate and showy, as long as it is well-written (or well-spoken) and effective, I admire it.

I recently used the word subsume in a piece without really thinking about it...I didn't even realize I knew the word, let alone how to use it properly in a sentence.  But, as is often the case, after using it I became acutely aware of it.
I'm currently reading a wonderful new book, The Passage by Justin Cronin.  There is a phenomenon underfoot--once rare but, in the last few years with books published by Margaret Atwood, Kate Atkinson, and John Banville (writing as Benjamin Black), among others, becoming, I'm happy to say, more common--of serious writers of mainstream literary fiction producing genre pieces.  Mysteries, thrillers, science fiction, and now, with The Passage, post-apocalyptic horror.  A thoughtful work, beautifully written, with a psychological depth and nuance of character not usually found in most horror novels, this piece of literary fiction also makes use of many of the formulaic tropes that make reading genre fiction so comfortable for those of us who love it; in this case, evil personified pitted against good, a mystic, somewhat supernatural innocent (here an eternal child), an epic journey, and some tasty battles.

But this is not a review of The Passage (although that will come, once I've finished it in its 766 page glory).  No, here I'm speaking of words.  I mentioned above my own use, several weeks ago, of the word subsume.  How delighted was I, then, just yesterday to come across this word in the book I'm currently reading!  And then again, this morning...and then again, just a few minutes ago.  Sometimes you can just have too much of a good thing.  There certainly is such a thing as le mot juste.  However, in our glorious English language, which contains between half a million and a million words, surely there is another mot just as juste which Mr. Cronin could have used to indicate the concept of incorporation into a larger category.
Gods know he's not the only good writer to fall in love with his own mastery of the language.  I distinctly remember during one of my very few excursions into the work of Faulkner--I think it may have been in the novella The Bear, although I'm far too lazy to go to the shelf to determine which work it was--being struck by his use of the word juxtapose...again and again and again.
So, maybe a nice thesaurus would be in order?


EnriqueFreeque said...

Enjoyed your juxtaposition of "subsume" between Faulkner and the author of The Passage. Quite the dichotomous accomplishment!

Rebecca Glenn said...

I have been trying to come up with a wordalicious response for an hour. Alas, that is not to be. Sigh.

EnriqueFreeque said...

Whud'ya mean? "Wordalicious" ain't half bad at all! C'mon now.

I'm holding HP and the Sorcerer's Stone as I write.

I'm going to give it my best shot.

I think I can I think I can...

It's mid June. Are you guys close to completion with Norman's Conquest in e-book format?

Just remembered I've still got that hottie question. Soon, soon.