Thursday, November 21, 2013

A Knack For Conjunctions

Hey! You know when I told you it would be silly for me to keep a list of books I have read that have Jell-O in them? I was an idiot when I said that. Hey so this Adrienne Barbeau autobiography has Jell-O in it. She is great with conjunctions! I mean, she can put a sentence together that has balance and electricity, defining a personality or a moment simply by placing two seemingly unrelated thoughts on either side of an "and." She describes being 15 this way: "I read Ayn Rand and went to ballet class." There's a lot about being 15 packed in there! Of an artsy older guy (he's in his 20s): "He ate cubes of Jell-O with his fingers and wrote everything in lowercase letters." These are economical sentences that really do the trick for me. I guess what I admire is the choice involved, Barbeau's instinct that these details on their own, separated by periods, would be lifeless (except for picking up Jell-O with your fingers; that stands up on its own - "cubes" a nice distinction too), but linked together, without even a comma, they are allowed to spark. Like making a fire with pieces of flint! I guess. It also tickles me that her acquaintances so far (I haven't read much of it) include "Martha Raye's brother-in-law" and "Kaye Ballard's nephew." Now, I know those names mean nothing to you, dear reader, which makes you no more to me than a common gutter punk. Kaye Ballard's nephew "had a gallery of his blown glass pieces and owned a royal poodle who carried his cigarettes for him." A use of the conjunction perhaps lacking the same compact appeal, perhaps utilizing a lower level of contrast, but good, with some satisfying twists. I'm not kidding when I say that it's akin to the old Hemingway line about knowing what to leave out: how exactly the poodle carried the cigarettes. That omission might be what makes the sentence. Here are two pictures of Kaye Ballard - sad Kaye Ballard and happy Kaye Ballard - for you to study until you earn my respect. (See also.)