Lady MacBeth Cocks an Eyebrow

This comment by Marianne Schaefer Trench posted at The Daily Beast caught my eye and forced me to arch a curious eyebrow of my own. 🤨

The Raised Eyebrow Is the Lazy Writer’s Favorite Cliché

You rarely see a raised eyebrow in real life, but in fiction they are rising, knitting, and furrowing everywhere, or at least if you’re looking at truly crappy novels and stories.

images.jpgI have developed a severe allergy to hyperactive eyebrows in fiction. They have become writers’ go-to lazy shorthand for pretty much any emotion. In novels, eyebrows do all kinds of things. Most commonly they “rise.” Sometimes a single eyebrow rises all by itself, but often both eyebrows rise in unison. Slightly more creative writers make the eyebrows “knit” or “furrow” or “hike” or “tighten” or “pinch” or “wiggle”—or any other verb that might describe a mobile eyebrow (or two).

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How German Is It?

download.jpgThis is a novel that definitely benefits from a second reading. Walter Abish asks the question, How German Is It, by presenting a deftly crafted narrative of a modern Germany by brushing the story against the past of Sturm und Drang, the horrors of the world wars, and the recently concluded Nazi infestation.

Abish writes a very provocative question:

Is it possible for anyone in Germany, nowadays, to raise his right hand, for whatever the reason, and not be flooded by the memory of a dream to end all dreams?

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Many Chopsticks But No Roof-Beam

download-1.jpgThere were many things to like about Miss Chopsticks by Xue Xinran. First, the translators notes gave a good overview of the difficulties translating Chinese into English and also an  insight into the difficulties of spoken vs. written Chinese as well as the understandable differences in the Chinese language resulting from the wide geography of the country.

That’s all technical but it also reflects the second interesting theme in the novel: the lives of rural Chinese vs. those of people living in the larger cities and towns. Xinran’s narrative makes these differences very clear and the major theme of the narrative is how the three sisters overcome these differences and adapt to the challenges for growth in the city. They go from being only chopsticks, everyday tools that are easily replaceable to being just as strong and valuable as men and boys, easily capable of holding up a roof-beam.

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