Friday, March 15, 2013

Cherry Picking at the Feast of Words.

"...the art of reading is ... an intimate ritual ... a book is a mirror that offers us only what we already carry inside us .." From The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon.

I haven't read Zafon's novel but, after Sharon's introduction to it on Wednesday, it's been added to my (impossible) TBR pile.

What caught my attention is the first bit "an intimate ritual." Call me dense, but the rest lost me somewhere--the muddled metaphor of mirrors offering glimpses of our insides. But it sounds romantic (if you don't think about it too hard. I mean, I've never glimpsed my pancreas in a mirror, nor do I care to.) Full points to Zafon!

Reading is not a natural act. Meaning, if we left our toddler to his own devices he would learn to "read" images and symbols, but not many words. The act of reading a word, then translating it into an image that represents a symbol of an action is complex and, in some sense, unnatural. A look at literacy rates in North America can only confirm how difficult of an act reading is to learn, practice, and master. 

Reading takes thousands of hours of rehearsal. Thousands of hours spent alone (minus the time spent listening to the Library Lady, a good teacher, or loving parent) engaging in the triple of act of recognizing word symbols, comprehending them, and translating them into meaning/action, and doing this very rapidly.

Is it any wonder that writers understand every moment a reader spends with their work as a sort of sacred time? A passing of one's soul through the other's. Writers move into the intimate ritual of aloneness as a ghost beside the reader while the pages turn. We want to participate fully in a feast of words we are not invited to. The feast enjoyed by the solitary reader.

What's the first thing I think of when I contemplate this feast? Of entering into the "intimate ritual" of a reader? 

Word choice.

I take it as a personal responsibility to the reader to fully engage her process of mastering reading by offering rich, textured words that evoke sensation, complex symbology, and atmosphere. The weapon of choice?


Ah, you thought I was going to say verbs, didn't you? Smart you. Of course verbs! They smear movement all over the page. Vital. 

But let's pause to praise the nuanced noun. 

Nouns that are specific as well as apt have a powerful effect on the readers senses, every bit as meaningful as vigorous verbs. 

Here's your assignment. Take a look at the four nouns listed below. Give them meaning, punch, and impact by offering an alternative noun that is specific, and apt. We're not looking for phrases here, just a single word.

I've offered an example noun for each--but you will be far more glorious in your reach.

Tree. (Ironwood)

Car. (Sedan)

Man. (Elder)

Street. (Lane)

Post your answers in the comment section. Be enlightening, be apt, be entertaining, and keep in mind the intimate ritual we desire to participate in as the provider of the feast of words.

*Bonus homework--for keeners only--describe yourself with three nouns. 


V. Gingerich said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
V. Gingerich said...

Tree. (Willow)

Car. (Hearse)

Man. (Widower)

Street. (Dead-end)

Me: reader, writer, procrastinator

Megan Sayer said...

Tree (Ghostgum)

Car (mini)

Man (father)

Street (esplanade)

And me: dreamer, artist, lover.

Susie Finkbeiner said...

Tree - Crimson Maple

Car - Clunker

Man - Fella

Street - Cobblestone

Me - Author, Creative, Goofball

Josey Bozzo said...

Tree - Oak

Car - Corvette

Man - Cowboy

Street - Parkway

Me - creative, restrained, fearful

Marian said...





Me - intercessor, mate, quipster

Henrietta Frankensee said...

Tree: Squirrel-catcher
Car: Vomit-Rocket (for the car sick)
Man: Hauncho
Street: Thoroughfare

Me: Mystic, Quester, Nut Whisperer.

Bonnie Grove said...

Wanderer: Such a theme to your nouns--look how the build one on another. Broom-swept sadness. I'm impressed.

Also, your descriptive nouns made me smile--you start us off with your passions, then tell us exactly the role they play in your life. Well done.

Bonnie Grove said...

Megan: Ghostgum is a great tree!

Susie: Clunker. Very nice. I like your self descriptives, but you let an adjective sneak in. A good one, but not a noun.

Josey: Another story! A cowboy parked under an oak, leaning on his corvette, waiting to take me for a ride on the parkway.

I like all the self-descriptive words you used--they tell a story about you, they are, however, adjectives. I hope you'll come back and wow us again with some nouns.

Bonnie Grove said...

Marian: Good stuff. Quipster made me smile--excellent word choice.

Henrietta: Hugely inventive. Vomit-rocket. Oh, we all read that and knew EXACTLY what you meant.

Love your self-descriptive nouns. Two erethral, then plunk--down-to-earth. Wonderful!

Josey Bozzo said...

Funny! I just spouted out the first words that came to my head about myself.

How bout these:
dreamer, bystander, coward

Anonymous said...

Tree--Weeping willow
Car--Dodge Shadow
Man--Richard, husband

Myself--Reader, Writer, Family-gal

Kathleen Popa said...

Like haikus. I'm enjoying this.

Susie Finkbeiner said...

Bonnie, are you saying "creative" is my adjective? I meant it as a noun. "She is a creative". Sorry. I've heard it used as a noun before...

Jennifer Major said...

Car-Karmin Ghia

3 nouns...
nurturer, troublemaker, gatherer

Bonnie Grove said...

Josey: Excellent nouns. But they make me wish I could take you for coffee and laugh a little at life together.

Vonildawrites: Okay, is that Dodge Shadow on your wish list? :) Nice!

Kathleen: I agree.

Susie: In context, sure. But sitting all by its lonesome it's an adjective. Full points to Susie!

Jennifer: "Man-creation". I think I understand what you're saying, but you should 'splain anyway.

Interesting you're a nurturer as well as a troublemaker. Nice jumble of characteristics!

Bonnie Grove said...

I did the 3 noun exercise awhile ago, and it took me a bit of time to wrap my head around descriptive nouns.

I finally arrived at mine: Artist, priest, lover.

Josey Bozzo said...

Anytime you are in VA, stop on by!

Jennifer Major said...

Man is God's creation. And my mind is as pure as the driven Prairie snow...while at my parent's , otherwise forget it.
And in case anyone is curious, my husband is a tree nerd.

Henrietta Frankensee said...

I hope I speak for everybody in thanking Bonnie both for the exercise in seeing ourselves and in the encouragement she gave each of us personally. Thank you Bonnie! This is a major part of your priesthood!
I have thought a little more. Theologically I am a NOW, a NEED and a CONNECTION.

Cherry Odelberg said...


Matriarch, Scribe, Musician