A striking idea, that in being true, a book will feel intimate and familiar to all men. 'True' surely means authentic rather than fact-based. Some books feel intimate and familiar to some people, not all, and there is value in that too. It is probably...read more
This is a description by Anthony Burgess of the reader's reaction to Mervyn Peake's writing in the intricately imaginative Gormenghast trilogy. My reaction to Peake's Titus Groan, the first of the trilogy, is that the effect of his writing is in aggregate...read more
Keats' letters are treasures - he is every bit as fine a correspondent as he is a poet. Here he chides a friend for visually attractive but sprawlingly illegible hand-writing. 'You must improve in your penmanship; your writing is like the speaking of a...read more
Here are Keats' own aspirations for his letter-writing. Whether he found interesting matter or just made matter interesting, his letters reveal a brilliantly alert, alive, playful, lovable human being. Andrew Motion's splendid biography also comments on...read more
A key aspect of designing a dream website is finding the right fonts. As with colour selection, I aim for visual beauty in keeping with the spirit of the site, reinforced by names reflecting its purpose. Having sifted through several thousand fonts...read more
Part of the fun of designing a website is choosing the colours. I use colourlovers.com where people create and name their own colours - it lets you search by picking a section of the spectrum (yellow-orange for example), and providing some key words. It...read more
A quote to note
Drawing on thousands of sparkling, moving and inspiring quotations amassed during decades of attentive reading. To delight your mind and spirit and improve your presentations beyond belief.
This is of course an outrageous statement, but I loved it when I saw it spray-painted on the wall of a motor museum in the Netherlands. Ridiculously macho approach, breezily dismissive of working with the power of physics to add speed. No, you work with...read more
The route to alchemy? There is none, there is no set path. As I understand this enigmatic injunction, we need to find our own path to creating, not seek or follow others' paths. Which isn't to preclude great draughts of inspiration from the alchemy they...read more
An imaginative description of an otter's reaction to the firstborn of her first litter. Williamson spent years studying otters before and while attempting to recreate their lives and feelings in writing. A masterpiece of human empathy for another...read more
Tarka's mother cleverly entices her cubs into the water, first by putting the food she has caught close to the water, then teaching them to hunt for themselves by various feints and incentives. Water is their element but there is a momentary fear when they...read more
More marvelous metaphors on Mondays … Monday, metaphor day.
A novel image for serenity. Use it next time you are describing someone or something serene. 'He was serene as glass.' Source: Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre (London: Bounty Books, 2012 (1847)), p. 518 Photo credit: MichaelGaida at...read more
So even the regular church-going Victorians only did their duty on Sundays. A nice way to convey stillness - an empty church on a week-day. 'It was as still as a church on a week-day.' Source: Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre (London: Bounty Books, 2012...read more
Bronte has a wonderful range of simile and metaphor, here demonstrated in powerlessness being likened to stubble thrown into a furnace. See also another of her images of vulnerability. 'Physically, I felt, at the moment, powerless as stubble exposed to the...read more
What a potent, heart-rending image of longing, echoing the Spanish word for lame or broken-winged, aliquebrado. See an earlier image of impotent vulnerability in Jane Eyre. '... only a sad heart broke it. ... it demanded him with ceaseless longing; and,...read more
Bringing you pithy, evocative imagery in the form of three-legged microcosms of meaning. Updated on Tuesdays … Tuesday, triologism day! You’ll never see this day of the week in the same way again.
Two lovely names for a dandelion-daisy-ish yellow flower with spokes poking out like a leafy wheel. 'The shock-headed flowers of the yellow goat's beard, or John-go-to-bed-at-noon ...' Source: Henry Williamson, Tarka the Otter: His joyful water-life and...read more
I never knew that hemlock grew alongside English fields, Of purple hue, it poisons you, and life to death it yields. 'He ran with them to where, amidst the purple-streaked stems of hemlock, the old man was standing on the shillets.' Source: Henry...read more
You can feel the warmth of a summer day with diaphanous wings darting over glittering ripples. 'She heard the rustling clicks of dragon-flies' wings over the sun-splashy ripples.' Source: Henry Williamson, Tarka the Otter: His joyful water-life and death...read more
Birds feature impressively in Williamson's minutely loving study of the life and landscape of an otter. Some are preyed upon, but overall their apparent fragility is combined with feistiness and resilience. The 'hawk-like glidings' evoke Gerard Manley...read more
Tarka the Otter is a magical book and stars sparkle in the sky and the water, here shivering with them. Elsewhere the stars form water-claws. 'The fish came no nearer so he dropped down into the black, star-shivery water.' Source: Henry Williamson,...read more
Williamson's lovingly accurate study of otters includes many examples of the playfulness of these animals, be it with each other, with other species, with water, or with inanimate objects. I liked the contented croaks of the jackdaws as they stretch wings...read more
Sharing words that sparkle, appeal, intrigue or otherwise grab me, including those in other languages. And adoring alliteration, new words will be added on Wednesdays… Wednesday, word day. See you back here then.
In this double-whammy week of French gloire, Bastille Day plus World Cup victoire, a half dozen proudly round sounding ooohh French words which have been playing in my ears since I stumbled upon them. First, a few onomatopoeic verbs and nouns, starting...
What a lovely sh-sh-sh quiet whispering sound, meaning, indeed, 'to whisper'. A whisper is 'un chuchotement', and a whispered conversation is 'une chuchoterie'. The whisperer, as in horses, is 'un chuchoteur' or 'une chuchoteuse'. If your whispering is in...
To hoot (as in owl) or to hiss (as in snake). 'Chuintant' is hushing, and 'un chuintement' is a hoot or a hiss. Another word for an owl's hooting is closer to the English: hululer. See also 'couiner' and...
The second syllable has the clue, here is how to bill and coo... This soft word can mean to whisper sweet nothings, or if you're less sentimental, you can use it to dismiss a singer as a mere crooner. It can also evoke the cooing of a bird. The business...
A wonderful word for a hard sweet or candy. Put one in your mouth and then try saying 'roudoudou' five times. Second thoughts, better not, we mustn't be choking on our words. The dictionary doesn't give the plural, so may I ask French friends to confirm...
A word that rolls into its roundness the sound of blowing ('souffler'), conveying something of its meaning: to swell, puff up, or in the case of paint, to blister. It can also be a reflexive verb, 'se boursoufler', and the noun is twofold: 'boursouflage'...
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