Suspend Your Disbelief

Shop Talk |

nothing new under the sun…

And this article, in fact, is 1.5 years old. But here are what Bob Harris (via the NY Times‘s “Paper Cuts” blog) names the “seven deadly words of book reviewing,” worn expressions to avoid if you want that novel you’re reviewing to sound remotely fresh.

Briefly, they are: poignant, compelling, intriguing, eschew, craft (verb), muse (verb), lyrical; read the whole entry for Harris’s compelling case against each. (Oops.)

I’ll happily give the rest up…but can I keep lyrical?

And don’t miss the readers’ comments; some of my favorites include:

The “much-anticipated debut.” By whom? The author’s landlord?

“that said” makes me want to claw my eyes out.A plague of verbal and written “that saids” has descended upon us.

“fresh new voice in American fiction”

E.B. White is no longer with us to say it himself, but I’ll quote from “The Elements of Style”:

“The world of criticism has a modest pouch of special words (luminous, taunt), whose only virtue is that they are exceptionally nimble and can escape from the garden of meaning over the wall. Of these Critical words, Wolcott Gibbs once wrote: ‘… they are detached from the language and inflated like little balloons.’ The young writer should learn to spot them—words that at first glance seem freighted with delicious meaning but that soon burst in air, leaving nothing but a memory of bright sound.”

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