November 17, 2009

"A robin's egg sky arced overhead..."

"... the brisk kick in the air hinting at winter's approach."

Judge the creative writing please.


traditionalguy said...

The quote sounds like a description of Alaska'a big sky country. Whatzup ?

Elliott A said...

I give the writing an F.

The sky is only an arc if you are on a downtown street in New York or Honk Kong, otherwise it is a dome.
The use of brisk as an adjective for kick which works poorly as a noun is wrong since one would never describe a kick as brisk. The art of writing requires the creation of some sort of visual imagery in the mind, and impossible descriptors make this impossible.
As a weather nut, it is common for a winter sky to be described as cobalt blue while the robins' egg or Carolina blue indicates mild weather and humidity, both absent in winter.
I hope that individual does not get paid for their writing.

vbspurs said...

Palin waxes lyrical about Alaska.

That passage reminded me of Laura Bush's description of the "endless, wide Texan sky of Midland where no dream seemed too big or too impossible to come true."

Perhaps it's something in the countryside which evokes these beautiful references of nature around them.

Rural folk are alive to the endless possibilities of nature, much more so than city folk like me. The most lyrical I ever waxed about my big metropolis was a fire red sky above called Sailor's Delight.

Are you glowering at me, sky?
Did you lose your blue,
Over Biscayne Bay?
-- I'm going back,
And leaving behind the day.
Red sky, sky of war,
See me home;
I'm soon there.

"Robin's egg sky arced overhead". That's an A+ in my creative writing class.


Irene said...

Is it Palin poetry?

Elliott A said...

Sorry I used "impossible" twice in the same sentence.

vbspurs said...

The quote sounds like a description of Alaska'a big sky country. Whatzup ?

Page 2 in Palin's book, TradGuy. Guess Ann just retired to bed with a good book and a better man.

vbspurs said...

wv: PRONESS! When an authoress reclines.

Elliott A said...

Victoria- Skies do not arc!



Irene said...

Elliott A said, "I hope that individual does not get paid for their writing."


Elliott A said...

BTW I like the former governor

Paul Zrimsek said...

A rocket can arc overhead, but the sky just sits there. Even the rocket, if it's in the past tense, would be well-advised to pick some other verb that doesn't beg to be pronounced "arsed".

rhhardin said...

Kick in the air is Cockney rhyming slang for kick in the ass, probably.

rhhardin said...

In the fall, Robins have orgy-like food fights before migrating south.

Eggs traversing the sky is not unusual.

Beth said...

An egg, of any color, arcing overhead, is going to go splat.

David said...

1. Inaccuracy. Skies do not arc.

2. Unnecessary word. "The sky was overhead." Duh. Where else is a sky?

3. Lack of originality. Robin's egg is hardly a fresh and original description of sky color.

Did she mean arched? Unfortunately, this does not fix anything.

"Brisk kick" in the air is not bad though.

Jason (the commenter) said...

"A robin's egg sky arced overhead..."

Well "arced" looks odd written down. Sounds like something that was said by one person and written by another. Or maybe they dropped an "h" and it was supposed to be "arched". "Arched" would have sounded so much better.

Then there's the "robin's egg sky" concept which is Siamese-twinned to the "sky arced" concept; which makes everything a little hard to comprehend.

And do we need to be told that the sky arced "overhead"? It's not like it's going to arc anywhere else.

"... the brisk kick in the air hinting at winter's approach."

I expect a brisk kick to be somewhere other than in the air.

And "hinting at winter's approach" just sounds awful.

Palladian said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Palladian said...

Hmmm... arced. Arced... always reminds me of...

Snow-Balls have flown their Arcs, starr’d the Sides of Outbuildings, as of Cousins, carried Hats away into the brisk Wind off Delaware,— the Sleds are brought in and their Runners carefully dried and greased, shoes deposited in the back Hall, a stocking’d-foot Descent made upon the great Kitchen, in a purposeful Dither since Morning, punctuated by the ringing Lids of various Boilers and Stewing-Pots, fragrant with Pie-Spices, peel’d Fruits, Suet, heated Sugar,— the Children, having all upon the Fly, among rhythmic slaps of Batter and Spoon, coax’d and stolen what they might, proceed, as upon each afternoon all this snowy Advent, to a comfortable Room at the rear of the House, years since given over to their carefree Assaults.

Judge the creative writing please.

vbspurs said...

Hi Elizabeth!

An egg, of any color, arcing overhead, is going to go splat.


...yet further proof how far we've become removed from the countryside, which takes its colour cues from the nature all around and not arts-and-crafts stores like Michael's.

Robin's egg blue is not about the egg. It's about the hue.

edutcher said...

David said...

1. Inaccuracy. Skies do not arc.

If you're laying on your back, especially on a hill, they do.

WV "dingiijq" Make up your own if you dare.

Jason (the commenter) said...

Palladian, that sounds unreadable, and not in a good way.

Much like my wv: zwqszrni

Palladian said...

"Palladian, that sounds unreadable, and not in a good way."

Tell that to my friend Thomas Pynchon.

That's a single sentence, by the way.

Palladian said...

If Palin had written that sentence I would vote for her in a heartbeat.

wv: idiote. Come on, they're playing mind-games with us now.

Freeman Hunt said...

And do we need to be told that the sky arced "overhead"? It's not like it's going to arc anywhere else.

Wouldn't that be something?

"A robin's egg sky arced underfoot...

Meade said...

"The sky is only an arc if you are on a downtown street in New York or Honk Kong, otherwise it is a dome."

Hey! Don't you dare call Sarah a honky dome!!!

chickenlittle said...

I would have used cerulean hued instead of "robin's egg" but that could just be the liquor talking.

Triangle Man said...

Hanky dame?

rhhardin said...

Americans need more honorifics to bring order to the political process.

More like the Japanese. Let me transcribe this 15 second clip just remembered

..And then we have an interview with NHK broadcasting culture research institute media management researcher senior analyst Mr. Masayuki Ikeda on digital television broadcasting worldwide.

Palin would have titles at least that long by now.

Meade said...

Freeman Hunt said...

Wouldn't that be something?

"A robin's egg sky arced underfoot...

Reminded me how, on Rush today:

GOV. PALIN: [...] I know Alaska has billions of barrels of oil underfoot[...]

Palladian said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Synova said...

I'd use "arched" instead of "arced". Arced definitely suggests movement to me, such as lighting arcing. The use of "arced" could almost be a typo or spell-check remnant. I'd also suggest "hinted" instead of "hinting" but I don't think this is properly a "was-ing" passive construction regardless so probably not incorrect, still not the best of all choices.

My evaluation of the "creative writing" element is colored by a somewhat recent personal realization that the "simple is better" people hardly ever write anything but turgid prose themselves and praise purple prose from professionals all while telling the novice that the most correct way to phrase that sentence is: The sky is blue.

It's a bunch of bull is what it is.

The difference between colorful prose that is good and colorful prose that is horrid, is how much attention it brings to itself... and that really can't be judged by one line.

I do think that the sentence is evocative of the expanse of endless sky in large places and the bite on the air that heralds winter.

Now, if the prose is full of said-bookisms, I'm right there with you. ("I sorted out my 7th grader's back pack and found a sweet list of the things distributed by her teacher," she harrumphed.)

Palladian said...

"I would have used cerulean hued instead of "robin's egg" but that could just be the liquor talking."

Cerulean? Hmmm...

"A cobalt(II)-stannate sky arced overhead, the brisk kick in the air hinting at very fine, rounded, isotropic, greenish-blue particles, a high refractive index, no birefringence, no pleochroism, appearing deep red through a Chelsea filter."

Jesus, now I'm really starting to write like Thomas Pynchon.

Maybe I am Thomas Pynchon. How would you people ever know one way or the other way?

Imagine if Sarah Palin had gotten Thomas Pynchon to ghost-write her vanity book...

vw: unstick

It's the Teflon ex-governor! Err, no. Quite the opposite. She's the badly seasoned cast iron pan ex-governor.

Let's just say you shouldn't try to cook a French omelet in her.

John Stodder said...

It's very bad writing. I doubt a professional co-writer would have let Palin get away with it. So it makes me think the co-writer wrote this drivel.

I flew from LA to NY via LV today, and the Palin book was in every airport's news and gift shop. I had a few minutes in Vegas and read a few pages. Lots of hoops and gaga over Todd, who seems like the reincarnation of Grizzly Adams.

wv: sugho. A diabetic who turns to prostitution to feed her sweet tooth.

Meade said...

"Imagine if Sarah Palin had gotten Thomas Pynchon to ghost-write her vanity book..."

That really would be dome.

rhhardin said...

The sky goes all the way to the ground.

I was just watching this clip of a 737 landing (works nicely full screen).

He's doing the most fun thing in the sky, playing a landing out of a turn, which is what you do when stabilized straight-in approaches become too boring.

Unfortunately it's a little painful to watch for a second because he overshoots the centerline, which means he screwed up the geometry that you're trying so hard to get perfect.

The trick in a turning approach is to get not only the right height at the right speed, but also to be going the right direction at that instant, a third thing to play with; and you must not force yourself into anything but the smoothest accommodations to the changing geometry.

I think the FAA has outlawed it for commercial aircraft in the US now in any case.

Anyway you will see that the sky is everywhere.

Freeman Hunt said...

Picture yourself on a magazine cover,
In hot pants and warm-up shirt ready to run.
A robin's egg sky arcs underneath your feet,
And you're aiming your high-powered gun.

Sarah in the sky with diamonds,
Sarah in the sky with diamonds,
Ssrah in the sky with diamonds,

chickenlittle said...

@Palladian: You're a real chem-nerd sometimes.
It takes one to know one.

vbspurs said...

Hi Meade!

Reminded me how, on Rush today:

He was big, and I do mean BIG on Mad Men on his radio show today. I've never watched it, but his description of 60s Madison Ave admen (like Bewitched's husband, Derwood?) piqued my curiosity. I've heard it's excellent, but I just don't watch television series.

Tangentially, I am watching and enjoying "WWII in HD" on the History Channel (as we speak).


rhhardin said...

The sky above and the sky below are also mentioned in this bit about Degas at the Metropolitan by Vicki Hearne

``But that jockey isn't dead, no way is he dead. Nor is he crumpled and broken. He is just suddenly in a position to gain that perspective on the sky that is one of the visionary building blocks of the knowledge of riding. Degas would have seen it hundreds of times, would have known that in a moment the jockey will begin to stir, trying out his breathing apparatus, and the moment of celestial insight will be gone except as a memory of those particular heaven-wide dimensions of the art of riding.

``This is a vision you can't get on purpose. You can't, for instance, go lie on your back in a meadow and get it, because the vision comes only from the sharp gaze that occurs when you are unexpectedly translated from an upright and even lofty posture, a posture that gives you a view of the ground only - a sweeping view to be sure, a magnificent view in which speed is an aspect of the articulation of rock and tree, but still a view of the ground. You can't see the sky from up there because you are the sky. Then, without the mediation of time or step-by-step gymnastics, you become, all at once and of a suddenness beyond the analysis of physics, the ground. Now you can see the sky, see what you once were and will be again.

``You also can't get this vision by, say, studying falling and planning to fall onto your back. It comes only in the context of another plan, a transcendent plan of order that sometimes transcends the planner. This whole visionary business is a precipitate, incautious affair, not the sort of thing you want going on in the Metropolitan.

(Bandit, p.189ff)

Palladian said...

She should have opened her memoir thus:

"As Sarah Palin awoke one morning from uneasy dreams she found herself transformed in her bed into a gigantic vice-Presidential candidate."

vbspurs said...

Sarah in the sky with diamonds,
Sarah in the sky with diamonds,
Ssrah in the sky with diamonds,

I have always felt this, but never moreso than today, reading her book but...there is something very Little House on the Prairie-After School Specials about Sarah Palin.

The photos she chose for her autobio are a combination Kirsty McNichol, Joe from Facts of Life, and somehow, skin hue aside, a bit of Tootie.

Palin is very 80s.


Palladian said...

The original German phrase for "vice-Presidential candidate" is einem ungeheueren Ungeziefer, by the way.

Synova said...

"Palin is very 80s."

Too many of us are. 8-|

ricpic said...


Cerulean blue above
And blinding white below,
I turn the key
And hope the car will g-g-go.

vbspurs said...

Aww. Synova. You write that like it's a bad thing. The 80s ROCKED.

Pogo said...

rhhardin, you magnificent bastard.

I am finally into Vicki Hearne's Bandit, completely embarrassed by the Chicken Soup for the Puppy's Soul title (a horrible lie about the actual contents), but holy shit is she a good writer.

Damnit; where has she been all my life? It's like Florence King and Whittaker Chambers plus Mary Karr divided by Wendell Berry.

Meade said...

As soon as I'm sure she's sound asleep, I'm going to grab the keys to this blog and front page Palladian's 9:35. Brilliant!
Hi Victoria.

Meade said...


Chip Ahoy said...



I think we're on the inside underneath a giant robin's egg. Except inside of a robin's egg is actually white. So the giant robin's egg would have to be inverted.

But kicks cannot not hints. Hints are subtle, kicks are not. Hints are like: "suggested air pressure printed on tire." (It's similar to "we bombed their city to send a message." Ridiculous because messages are like this: "Meet us at Racine's at 7:30. Surprise for Tim.")

Suggested correction:

The breathtaking dazzling sky was robin's egg blue, the bracing air indicated winter was near. So I rapidly covered my face with duct tape leaving peep holes for my eyes, strapped up the dog team and headed out before the weather really got bad. The dogs are always eager to go and their barking never fails to cheer me up. Of course I put Avalanche at the lead because he's always so reliable and I would have to rely on that reliability for the long Arctic night that awaited us.

But before all that I shot that goddamn polar bear that kept picking through the trash, knocking over the cans, making a mess, bending my yard flamingos and kicking around the garden gnomes, then threw its skank-ass carcass into one of the cans because I already have two polar bear rugs and the last thing this house needs is another one and these days they're jut too hard to sell. Then I put on my fur hat made from a wolf's head and snapped the wolf-tail strap, put on my mittens that I stitched myself from seal pup skin and waxed the runners on the sled with narwal fat. Only then did I feel completely ready to head out into the unforgiving Alaskan cold.

Oops. I'm sorry. Got a little carried away there. Apologies.

Meade said...

Damn. Laughing so loud at Chip, I might've awakened the mrs.

XWL said...

This song is the appropriate soundtrack for this post, I think.

JAL said...

FWIW the sun doesn't rise either.

chickenlittle said...

He was big, and I do mean BIG on Mad Men on his radio show today. I've never watched it, but his description of 60s Madison Ave admen (like Bewitched's husband, Derwood?) piqued my curiosity. I've heard it's excellent, but I just don't watch television series.

I love Mad Men. At one level it represents my life's "arc" because in the pilot episode there's a close up on a calendar that pegs the month and year of my birth. I own the two seasons that there are to own and Season 3 just wrapped up a week ago Sunday.

I've met younger than 40's who can't stand the show, can't see the point at all, so be wary if you watch it.

ricpic said...

Younger than 40's don't know squat.

Even I, great as I am, didn't know squat before...oh, 47.

section9 said...

Comedy Gold, Chip!

Comedy gold!

ricpic said...

Sounds like Hearne is using too many words to describe a zen bop on the nose.

Adele Mundy said...

Wait a minute!

Meade stole the keys to the blog.

Let's all pile in and go to the Roadhouse for some long Neck buds.

William said...

Reading Sarah Palin for the literary merit is like reading Virginia Woolf for insights on how to field dress a moose.....Someone introspective enough to be a good writer will rarely be enough of an extrovert to be a good politician and vice versa. There are some exceptions like Lincoln and Churchill. but mostly it's just ghostwriters explaining it all away.... Still people want to buy these books. Mrs. Edwards told an inspiring story of how she battled cancer and kept her family intact. Her book, Die, Dipshit, Die, was read by many women looking for guidance on life's existential questions. Mrs. Clinton also had a big best seller with her book, I'm Worth 100 Million and You're Not. Many feminists with the goal of world domination find enlightenment and comfort in Hilary's reflections on a life well lived. It is good that now conservative women have a book to put on the shelf beside these grand works.

William said...

For her next book Sarah really should consider Chip as a ghost writer.

Ralph L said...

like Bewitched's husband, Derwood?
Darren. You might be thinking of Dagwood Bumstead, of unique coiff and single-button shirt.

Mad Men is overpoweringly evocative of the tightly-wrapped early 60's. Little did they know what was just ahead.

Gerda said...

The Russian-Germans like this work so much, they've already translated it:

“Aro bins eggsky ar cedo verhe ad… thebr iskki ckint heairhin tinga twint ersap pro ach.”

Joan said...

Victoria, WWII in HD is killing me. All that footage is real, and watching all those people die is too horrible, even if it did happen many years ago. Absolutely incredible program, though, and I'm sure I'll make it through the whole thing eventually.

My husband and I finally snagged season 1 of Mad Men from the library and have watched the first 5 or 6 episodes. It's finally getting interesting, past the (gorgeous) clothes and (disgusting) culture (or lack thereof), with very slow reveals about who Don Draper really is. I would like the show a lot better if there were even a single character I could like, but so far (with the exception of the account exec who got his story published in the Atlantic Monthly), they're all distasteful.

As for the topic sentence, it's meaning is quite clear, as is the image it wishes to convey. In that respect it is successful whether or not you like the style.

Palladian: you can read Thomas Pynchon to me anytime... unless Chip is beguiling us with his own compositions.

rhhardin said...

Vicki Hearne: her other great works are the earlier Adam's Task, and the later Animal Happiness.

A couple volumes of poetry if you're into poetry; and a novel which is perhaps the worst-written novel ever created, The White German Shepherd, every copy of which should be burned, except as a laughable example of what happens when your editor insists that you put in a sex scene.

Largo said...

Cannot ... resist ... plugging ... Anders.

MadisonMan said...

Derwood is what Andora called him

MadisonMan said...

Endora. Endora.

MadisonMan said...

And yes, to whoever said that brisk kicks do not hint.

I'm glad I am not an English teacher. Imagine having to judge writing like that for a job.

Jason said...

Fire isn't green either.

But one of my favorite moments in literature is Dylan Thomas and his 'fire green as grass.'

WV: exacti

vbspurs said...

wv: sugho. A diabetic who turns to prostitution to feed her sweet tooth.


vbspurs said...

Yes, Derwood is what Endora called him -- my insider joke.

Since this is on-topic, Palin recounts how Alaskans got their TV programmes (including sports, NFL games!) on one-week delay. Television played very little role growing up in the Heath household.

When they did finally get a television, Chuck Sr. was crafty. He built a garage-annex next to the house, and shoved their set there. Problem is, it was 30 BELOW FAHRENHEIT in that room. It discouraged TV viewing, since they would have to haul wood, stoke the fire, and getting it going hours before -- just for one hour of prime-time TV.

Exceptions seem to have been made on Friday nights, when the whole family got into down sleeping bags, and the kids actually fought not to get up and change the channel because it was so cold.

The programmes she watched probably are more known to you guys than to me.

On Sundays she watched the Lawrence Welk Show, 60 Minutes and the Wonder World of Disney.

vbspurs said...

The Wonderful World of Disney. I actually do remember that, if it's the show where Tinkerbell would appear and throw up her magic stardust.

Henry said...

Robin egg kicking is a very underappreciated sport. It works best with frozen eggs. And lots of duct tape.

knox said...

except as a laughable example of what happens when your editor insists that you put in a sex scene.

...and why is this *not* the Hearne excerpt you chose to share??

knox said...

re: Mad Men, I find the office-related story lines very interesting and the characters engaging (if ultimately unlikable.)

In contrast, everything relating to Don Draper/Betty Draper, their personal lives, their love lives, and their free-floating malaise is ham-handed and boring. (And January Jones has to be the worst actress on TV with the coolest name.)

Watch it, but use the fast-forward button liberally!

knox said...

My curiosity is still piqued (arced?) about that sex scene ... could it be worse than an Updike sex scene?? Oh, the possibilities!

chuck b. said...

Robin's egg always makes me think of Joan Baez and Bob Dylan, and the sky, thinking about literature reminds me of Paul Bowles. "The sky hides the night behind it and shelters the person beneath from the horror that lies above."

Synova said...

Brisk kicks do not hint?

Eyes don't roll, either.

I hate to pull the reverse double literary snobbery gambit here but there are certain complaints about fiction and certain rules people fuss about, that tend to be anti-evidence of hackery.

Like the list of words to use instead of said that I found in my daughter's back pack.

Not using the word said is a "tell" that the writer is a noob poseur.

This is also true of complaints that "eyes do not roll."

I could rewrite the "horrid" sentence a number of ways but they'd sound just as stupid in someone else's prose. They wouldn't *fit* with the rest of it even if I managed to stumble onto something brilliant. And it's the fitting that is important. In fact, it's the only thing that actually is important.

I wouldn't use an -ing word and to do so I'd probably tear this sentence into two. This is assuming I hyper-edited at the sentence level. Brisk kick is fine. "A brisk kick in the air spoke to the coming winter."

Oh noes! Kicks can't speak!

Too bad.

k*thy said...

this sounds like some poetry I *wrote* as a 6th grader. I still cringe when I see this, with it's bad artwork still on my mothers sewing room wall. I recall that when writing it, I was trying to be as purposely cheesy as possible. Go figure.

miller said...

Let's just stop talking about Palin. I mean, no one wants to talk about her -- she is a nullity.

So stop talking about her and stop thinking about how she will affect the 2012 elections.

Focus, people! We have MC President in the White House!

pinkmonkeybird said...

I bought the book last night and managed to have read a few pages before bedtime.
It's got some nice little creative flourishes that prompt some insight into her personality. Firstly, I think she is a creative thinker and enjoys looking at innovative solutions to problems.
A dullard like John Kerry probably would have called that sky "powder blue". But Palin conjures a universal image that brings to mind a soft blue, perhaps seeming fragile, with white particles within it.
I was impressed, in those initial pages I read last night, her description of her attempts as a little girl to fly like a bird. The story is bold because she is daring enough to relate a fact of herself that her enemies would deride her for ("Hey, didja know that that dumbass Palin thought she could fly like a bird? What a stupid ass she is. And to think that she was almost in charge of our nuclear arsenals! Man...she is one dumb bitch! I hope she jumps out of a window and tries to fly again.Splatttttt. Hahahahahah. Hoooohohohohh000. Liberals care so much more than rightwing nuts.)

But last time I checked, we were interested in reading Going Rogue because she's a political contender; Not James Joyce's successor. So I think it does a disservice to too closely examine creative writing in this book.

mariner said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
bagoh20 said...

As it so often does, this discussion sounds like the lame clique of girls pausing their chatter of the coolest lip gloss to amuse themselves as the geek walks by on her way to accomplishing things the girlies could never. What's really infuriating is that she looks better in lip gloss than them anyway. "I totally hate her."

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