God likes a good frolic


There are still further opportunities for you to put some play into your phrasing. Press one part of speech into service as another, as Don DeLillo does in “She was always maybeing” (an adverb has been recruited for duty as a verb) and as Barry Hannah does in “Westy is colding off like the planet” (an adjective has been enlisted for verbified purpose as well). A variation is to take an intransitive verb (the sort of verb that can’t abide a direct object) and put it in motion as a transitive verb (whose very nature it is to enclasp a direct object). That is what Fiona Maazel is up to with the verb collide, which abandoned all transitive use ages ago, in her sentence “Often, at the close of a recovery meeting, as we make a circle and join hands, I’ll note the odds of these people finding each other in this group; our sundry pasts and principles; the entropy that collides addicts like so many molecules.” Or take some standard, overworked idiomatic phrasing—such as “It turned my stomach”—and transfigure it, as Barry Hannah does in “I saw the hospital in Hawaii. It turned my heart.” Or rescue an ordinary, overtasked verb from its usual drab business and find a fresh, bright, and startling context for it, as Don DeLillo manages with speaks in “You will hit traffic that speaks in quarter inches” and as Barry Hannah does with the almost always lackluster verb occurred in “… a single white wild blossom occurred under the forever stunted fig tree.…” You can also choose to prefer the unexpectable noun, as Diane Williams does with history in “We can come in out from our history to lie down” and as Sam Lipsyte does with squeaks in “Home, we drank a little wine, put on some of that sticky saxophone music we used to keep around to drown out the bitter squeaks in our hearts.” Or you can choose a variant of a common word, a variant that exists officially in unabridged dictionaries but has fallen out of usage—if, that is, you have reason enough for doing so.

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