Monday, April 21, 2014


In the New York Times this morning I came across the word "anadromous." At first I thought it meant "trisexual," but as I read on learned that it describes a fish that lives in salt water but swims upstream in a freshwater river to spawn. That will stay with me all day.

Sunday, April 20, 2014


Last night I watched the short after-show feature with the cast of "Doc Martin" and was struck by how inarticulate the actors were when they did not have a script to read from. Even Caroline Catz, the splendid British actress who plays Louisa Glasson, emitted a hail of "likes" and "you knows" and "ums" in her banal and quite forgettable responses to questions from the interviewer.

But why should we expect actors to be any better than us ordinary folks at unscripted remarks? We don't speak in shapely sentences and paragraphs, either. Our sentiments always emerge lumpy and rumpled, like unmade beds of the mind.

Every writer of fiction faces the dilemma: Do we render human speech as it actually is in all its messiness, or must we nudge and polish it into readable form?

We need some of the former to set off speakers from one another, to give them individuality, but a little of that goes a long, long way. Too much of the latter makes them sound cookie-cutter indistinguishable.

Writing dialogue isn't easy.