December 12, 2019

"How did this standard-issue marshmallow of a man seduce his wife out of a promising Hollywood career to act in his Off Broadway plays?"

"He doesn’t say smart, enticing things ('You pulled the rug out from under me and now I’m in hell' is standard fare) and thanks to his rendition of 'Being Alive' from Sondheim’s Company, I finally don’t feel like an asshole for using the word bathetic."

Ha ha. I'm enjoying the writing by Hannah Gold in "Marriage Story Made Me Feel Nothing" (NY Magazine). I haven't seen the movie or had any desire to see it, but I'm just really enjoying this takedown. Hannah Gold is really good.
[I]n a film ostensibly about a messy divorce there is only one fight scene and it’s rather disappointing. Glib chitchat about Monopoly and credenzas lights the way for a noisy spitballing of grievances.
I know. You can criticize this kind of writing. It needs to be checked for logic. How could spitballs ever be noisy? I'm thinking of the largest possible spitball making the loudest possible splat. Near the beginning I read "These snapshots offer the audience a glimpse of love forged in the persnickety details of intimacy," I wanted to word edit. How can "persnickety details of intimacy" work as a forge?  But I kept reading and enjoyed myself so much, I wanted to tell you about it.

And here's Adam Driver singing "Being Alive":

37 comments:

Annie C. said...

Funny that when I write something and it feels over-done or just plain wrong, I think to myself, "How would Althouse tear this apart?"

Then I smile to myself and re-write it.

Chris said...

Just like "Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf" I cannot sit through anything where the plot is just couples screaming at each other and fighting. Wont be watching.

rhhardin said...

Just from the headline I'd assume she loved him, is how.

stevew said...

I think spitballing in this context means expressing ideas, brainstorming as it were.

“to suggest ideas, especially those that are jocular, improbable, or impractical,” -MW

No moistened paper being tossed around, no wet baseballs traveling unpredictable arcs, thoughts, ideas, and grievances being expressed loudly. Not so sure you can forge anything with that.

David Begley said...

How does this movie get made and my “Frankenstein, Part II” can’t? I guarantee my script is better.

Ann Althouse said...

"I think spitballing in this context means expressing ideas, brainstorming as it were."

I know what it means, but it's a metaphor, and you should be in control of the concrete meaning when you use a metaphor to mean something else. You need to notice the illogic and the different combinations and keep the various words in a sentence making sense in the metaphorical way. Some people don't notice metaphors that are what George Orwell called "dying metaphor." They should! The writing is colorful because metaphors are being used. "Forged" feels stronger than "made," but you should remember what a forge is and not mix the metaphor.

Ann Althouse said...

"The writing is colorful because metaphors are being used. "Forged" feels stronger than "made," but you should remember what a forge is and not mix the metaphor."

This is part of my longstanding problem with the idiotically overused word "garner." As I I said a while back:

"If you're ever considering using the verb 'garner,' please stop and ask yourself whether you have some ridiculous notion that 'get' is not a word and that you'll seem more creditable for using this silly word that originally had to do with storing grain in a place called a "garner.'"

If you're using "garner" to describe a process that's something like storing grain, I don't have a problem with using it. It's the reflexive avoidance of "get" and striving for meaningless vividness that has no sense to it that I am criticizing.

rhhardin said...

Metaphors have a tenor and a vehicle, if you want I.A. Richard's terms.

rhhardin said...

See Fowler (second edition) on METAPHOR, battles of dead metaphor section.

"But dead metaphors will not lie quietly together if there was repugnance between them in life; e'en in their ashes live their wonted fires, and they get up and fight: "It is impossible to crush the government's aim to restore the means of living and working freely." ...

However Althouse spots also dead metaphors that don't battle, which is a literary mistake.

Ann Althouse said...

Here's the Orwell thing on dying metaphors. It's quite short and easy to absorb and remember:

"DYING METAPHORS. A newly invented metaphor assists thought by evoking a visual image, while on the other hand a metaphor which is technically ‘dead’ (e. g. iron resolution) has in effect reverted to being an ordinary word and can generally be used without loss of vividness. But in between these two classes there is a huge dump of worn-out metaphors which have lost all evocative power and are merely used because they save people the trouble of inventing phrases for themselves. Examples are: Ring the changes on, take up the cudgel for, toe the line, ride roughshod over, stand shoulder to shoulder with, play into the hands of, no axe to grind, grist to the mill, fishing in troubled waters, on the order of the day, Achilles’ heel, swan song, hotbed. Many of these are used without knowledge of their meaning (what is a ‘rift’, for instance?), and incompatible metaphors are frequently mixed, a sure sign that the writer is not interested in what he is saying. Some metaphors now current have been twisted out of their original meaning without those who use them even being aware of the fact. For example, toe the line is sometimes written as tow the line. Another example is the hammer and the anvil, now always used with the implication that the anvil gets the worst of it. In real life it is always the anvil that breaks the hammer, never the other way about: a writer who stopped to think what he was saying would avoid perverting the original phrase."

Ann Althouse said...

Orwell's problem isn't the mixing of metaphor though, it's just the irritating lameness. The effort at vividness fails.

My problem is the numbness, the loss of awareness of the concrete, letting everything become abstract, and then, under that numbness, thinking you can achieve vividness, when all the while, some of us readers are not numb. We have a sense of the concrete, and language is alive for us and your effort at vividness fails, because I see you as abstracted and numb.

rhhardin said...

It's the literary effect that matters, not the etymology.

As for being lazy, language is learned by learning to disassemble and reassemble cliches. That's why foreign students keep making mistakes for a long time - they haven't learned the cliches and do it wrong now and then.

rhhardin said...

It you want to be sensitive to numbness, look for use of latin-root words. The more numb, the more latin.

Laslo Spatula said...

"How does this movie get made and my “Frankenstein, Part II” can’t? I guarantee my script is better."

Because MY film "The Frankenstein Trilogy, Part Four" will be filmed and done in a few weeks.

Hollywood is a gaping wound.

I am Laslo.

Marcus said...

It really grinds my gears when someone cites an analogy and calls it a metaphor.
Thanks for your writing on writing. Merry Christmas!

THEOLDMAN

Someone has to have standards; why not you?

Laslo Spatula said...

Last week in Toronto my short won Best Comedy and my feature was nominated for Best Feature and won for Best Writer.

Making movies is my blogging.

I am Laslo.

Laslo Spatula said...

"How could spitballs ever be noisy?"

I believe it depends on the amount of spit.

When the amount of spit exceeds the amount of the carrying-material, you get sounds that are technically termed 'squooshy.' At least when they impact on a target of some solidity.

I am Laslo.

michaele said...

Since I have the couch moving scene from Friends fairly fresh in my mind, I couldn't help but notice that Adam Driver looks like a more homely David Schwimmer...plus, with his few spoken words before he started singing, he also sounds like "Ross". That singing scene was very boring. Had to curser skip through it.

AlbertAnonymous said...

Ugh. This writing. It’s like she wants to be NY high society but she knows she’s just Jenny from queens. Trying too hard to sound smart.

From the first few sentences:

“I ached to discuss my excitement with anyone who would listen.”

“I replayed the twee yet thoughtful trailer in my head.”

A friend who saw it in theaters told me she’d had an ecstatic experience while watching it”.

“She wept”

Think she’s trying to “garner” some kind of high society/academic nobility reputation by using words you wouldn’t say or hear in daily life.

Did she ache or just want to discuss it?
Twee ?
An ecstatic experience? So she felt something? It moved her? Or did she orgasm?
And did she cry? I mean who weeps? Except Jesus.

Ugh. She ain’t him.

AlbertAnonymous said...

Lol so I clicked on the author’s name, and was shown a list of recent articles. First one I glanced at, about a young model dating Leo DiCaprio (and catching Shit for it) says:

“Morrone, who says she is slowly transitioning her career away from modeling and recently garnered positive critical attention for her new indie film Mickey and the Bear...”

Hannah Gold is comedy gold.

Leland said...

Is she really claiming Joanne Tucker has a promising career in Hollywood? What is that based on? She's made a few movies off which none are very noteworthy.

buwaya said...

"Last week in Toronto my short won Best Comedy and my feature was nominated for Best Feature and won for Best Writer."

Congratulations!

This is far more productive than blogging.

Better than me hanging out in bed whacking about in US politics during what should be siesta.

Sebastian said...

"But I kept reading and enjoyed myself so much"

Why? Mindless drivel by a writer who is trying too hard doesn't normally seem your kind of thing.

Wince said...

Althouse said...
"I'm thinking of the largest possible spitball making the loudest possible splat."

Conversely, I was thinking of the spitball's emanation.

A huge "PTOOEY!"

William said...

The movie got good reviews and is on Netflix. I haven't seen it and feel vaguely guilty about not doing so. I can do so by clicking a button. It's got Scarlet Johannson, but I don't think she wears tight clothes or kills anyone in this movie. I don't think the appeal of Scarlet Johannson revolves around watching her suffer the stress and tedium of an unhappy marriage. Scarlet Johannson in a dull marriage is a mixed metaphor.

William said...

"Toe the line" is correct usage but "tow the line" is a more telling expression precisely because it is wrong. If you misuse a cliche in such a way as to make people more aware of your meaning, can it properly be called a cliche.

The Cracker Emcee Refulgent said...

The short answer?

Chicks.

You’re welcome.

Josephbleau said...

I have to say, concerning hammers and anvils, the object found between the hammer and the anvil gets the worst of it. No smith breaks his hammer by beating an anvil.

The Cracker Emcee Refulgent said...

Was discussing A Handmaid’s Tale with a woman at work. She was oblivious to it’s heavy-handed message. “I don’t think about the content. I want to be entertained”. Assents from the females in her workgroup.

The Cracker Emcee Refulgent said...

In a world where Hallmarkian Christmas movies are gobbled like crack, why would this chick question anything about this chick-flick?

The Cracker Emcee Refulgent said...

And that’s not a criticism. But, Jesus, see it clearly.

Roughcoat said...

Last week in Toronto my short won Best Comedy and my feature was nominated for Best Feature and won for Best Writer.

Good on you, mate. Very cool.

Jake said...

What I don't understand is Adam Driver as a star.

Nichevo said...


rhhardin said...
It you want to be sensitive to numbness, look for use of latin-root words. The more numb, the more latin.

12/12/19, 6:46 AM



Solzhenitsyn was in violent agreement with you, and in relation to his own language, too! He decried the overuse of Latinate "bird-words" in Russian just as Churchill preferred Anglo-Saxon roots to the Romantic.

Patrick said...

"It's the reflexive avoidance of "get" and striving for meaningless vividness that has no sense to it that I am criticizing"

It has long been a bugaboo of mine that people use the word 'get' in place of 'understand.' Now, I should probably go look up 'bugaboo' to see if that remotely covers what I am trying to express.

David Begley said...

IWC Short Cuts Award for Best Short Film:

Lasse Linder - All Cats Are Grey in the Dark (winner)
Federico Luis Tachella - The Nap (honourable mention)

Laslo/Lasse

When did you move to Switzerland?

You have, however, convinced me to change the title to “Bride of Frankenstein.”

Laslo Spatula said...

ALTFF in Toronto, David.

My website also has a list of the various festivals and awards; you can verify those too, if you like.

I am Laslo.