Regarding Pale Fire again — the thing worked on me. I have to admit that I felt his pain, was disappointed on his behalf, when in the final pages he discovered sadly that Zembla was nowhere to be found in the poem.
I would also like to announce that at least three times reading this book I won the internet version of “OED Bingo”—which is where you look up a word in the dictionary and find the passage you’d just been reading among the usage examples. I had forgotten where I heard of this game; cursory googling indicates that it was coined and invented by the author Caleb Crain. (I have no idea how I ever would have found my way to Crain’s blog post about The Faerie Queen, but there it is.)
The most recent win was for the cheerfully unpronounceable “inenubilable.” Leave it to Nabokov, who grew up trilingual in Russia, to write a European emigre who speaks with such vocabulary.
Yeah so, just to get etymological, I’m reclaiming “sonata.” All this word really means is something played, rather than sung (“cantata”), and at first it was no more specific than that. Sonata form, as presently textbooked and termpapered, had its relatively short heyday. For those of us who love Beethoven and Mozart but also love Scarlatti and Cage, the word has always had a broader application.
Here it is applied to improvised music for dance: ( Sonatas for Dropshift )
One of the best writing tips I’ve received lately is in John McPhee’s Draft no. 4. If you’ve got a word that isn’t working, McPhee suggests, don’t go to the thesaurus; proceed rather to the dictionary.
10 Best of 2014
January: Wyoming and the Open
February: New Mexico and the Holes
Notes on The Accounts