Thursday, September 13, 2012

Scarecrowed into using more verbs

So I'm going back to Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Virgin Suicides, because I think it's a really exciting study in strong verb usage and brilliantly selected words. I picked a couple of my favorite paragraphs below, but the whole book is, in one word, vivid.

A quick summary If you haven’t read the novel—it’s written from the point of view of teenage boys who are obsessed by the 5 beautiful daughters of the Lisbon family who all commit suicide by the end of the book.(Note: This isn't a spoiler since the opening of the book tells you all this info upfront!)

Here’s my first paragraph (verbs bolded, except for auxiliaries):

It felt as though the house could keep disgorging debris forever, a tidal wave of unmatched slippers and dresses scarecrowed on hangers, and after sifting through it all we would still know nothing. (p229, ¶2)

Isn’t the use of “scarecrowed” brilliant? Not only is the word choice nice and active, but it makes the dresses come alive in the closet. Also notice “disgorging”, and even though it’s not a verb, “tidal wave.”

Here’s another paragraph (verbs bolded, adjectives with verb-like qualities italicized):

After the meal Peter Sissen asked to go to the bathroom, and because Therese and Mary were both in the downstairs one, giggling and whispering, he had to use the girls’, upstairs. He came back to us with stories of bedrooms filled with crumpled panties, of stuffed animals hugged to death by the passion of the girls, a crucifix draped with a brassiere, of gauzy chambers of canopied beds, and of the effluvia of so many young girls becoming women together in the same cramped space. (p9, ¶1)

Even though action isn’t even really the focal point of the second sentence, can't you just feel the space and the room's claustrophobia? It's like magic.

Quotes from: Jeffrey Eugenides. The Virgin Suicides. London, United Kingdom: Bloomsbury Publishing; 2002. (paperback edition)

Picture: Promo photo for the movie version of the The Virgin Suicides, written and directed by Sophia Coppola in 1999. Note the bra on the crucifix in background!

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