some days

IMG_1046Anne Enright, the author of The Gathering, winner of the 2007 Man Booker Prize, just wants to write, but as Dani Shapiro recently pointed out, some days it’s easier than others.

“I need to write,” Enright said. “I go bonkers a bit if I don’t.”

I do as well. Some days I go bonkers even if I do write.

Looking over The Gathering this morning as a way to begin my writing day, I was again struck by the way Enright uses repetition. Of course, one of the “rules” of writing is to avoid repetition. It’s tedious to readers; it can make them go bonkers.

Not, however,when the repetition is intentional and the sound of the sentence rolling off the tongue makes you want to read it over and over again. Take a look at these two beautiful sentences:

“I close my eyes against the warm sunlight and doze beside the dozing stranger on the Brighton train.”

“I was back to school runs and hoovering and ringing other-mothers for other-mother things…”

Enright writes when she can and where she can, with no set hours and no word or page targets. You can take a look at one of the places she writes here.


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7 thoughts on “some days

  1. I’m so glad you brought this up. There is a place for repetition and you cited some good uses of it. It’s somewhat poetic. I use it once in a while. I hope successfully.

    I followed your link and now I’m wondering why Anne Enright feels uncomfortable when people browse her bookshelves. Too personally revealing?


  2. Repetition is one of my all-time favorite rhetorical devices. One of my dearest examples from poetry is Theodore Roethke’s: “I knew a woman, lovely in her bones, / When small birds sighed, she would sigh back at them; / Ah, when she moved, she moved more ways than one: / The shapes a bright container can contain!”

    Also, do you remember that amazing list toward the end of A Modest Proposal, where Swift satirically lists all the solutions he doesn’t want to hear proposed for the “Irish Question,” each one beginning “of”? It may seem odd, but it sends chills up my spine every time I read it!

    Therefore let no man talk to me of other expedients: of taxing our absentees at five shillings a pound: of using neither clothes, nor household furniture, except what is of our own growth and manufacture: of utterly rejecting the materials and instruments that promote foreign luxury: of curing the expensiveness of pride, vanity, idleness, and gaming in our women: of introducing a vein of parsimony, prudence and temperance: of learning to love our country…


  3. I agree, Linda. It is poetic, isn’t it? I also wondered why it made Enright uncomfortable for people to peruse her shelves. It could be that it’s too revealing. I also wondered if she just might not want anyone messing with her books or asking to borrow favorites.


  4. Emily, I love these examples, especially the first one. Thank you for taking the time to copy them here.

    As an aside, I started a post on containers but abandoned it temporarily (and wrote this one on Enright’s sentences) until I could find some passages or poems that used that word in them! How coincidental is that? If you happen to know any more, I’d love to know.


  5. I hadn’t thought of that, though I should have. I confess that it’s hard for me to loan out my books, which is why I buy so many used paperback duplicates. I don’t mind loaning those.


  6. I picked this one up on the recommendation of many, but still have not been able to read it. Not in the right frame of mind. But, I began a book Wild Lives, by Monique Proulx, translated from French, finalist for the Governor General’s Award (i should read the original, I know), and I am amazed at her gorgeous use of repetition. The opening lines begin:
    “Lila Szach liked uphill paths. In life so many things – and life itself, in fact – go only downhill. She liked sunlight uphill paths, yet this one did not go uphill.”


  7. Jennifer, I love the lines you included from Monique Proulx (Wildlives)! I will have to read that one. I bet it’s beautiful in French.

    An don’t give up on The Gathering. Tell it to wait patiently.


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