word journey

img_1290Do you ever have that thing where for some reason you notice a word and then it’s everywhere?  In each of the books you’re reading.  Somebody says it on TV.  It’s on the first page of The New York Times.  The person reading your novel uses it.

Well, last week it happened to me.  And the word was resonant, along with its little family.

resonant: “adj. 1 (of sound) echoing; resounding; continuing to sound; reinforced or prolonged by reflection….” (OAD).  Then there’s the verb, to resonate: “to produce or show resonance.” (OAD) Which takes us to the noun, resonance: “the reinforcement or prolongation of sound by reflection or synchronous vibration.”  (There’s a special definition for mech., chem., and physics, but nothing for literary.)  Dictionary.com also adds for to resonate: to evoke a feeling of shared emotion or belief.

The book I’m reading now, Plant Dreaming Deep, May Sarton:  “I had not heard an oriole since I was a child; in my agitated state these notes fell with an extraordinary resonance.  I felt reassured. It seemed, in fact, like a sign.”

The New York Times, January 28, 2009, Michiko Kakutani:  “In his most resonant work, Mr. Updike gave ‘the mundane its beautiful due,’ as he once put it….”

On Friday, in another book I’m reading, An Accidental Light, Elizabeth Diamond: “Place names resonate with me, like a language returning.”

On Saturday, Jim Nance asked Mean Joe Green about his famous 1980 Super Bowl commercial: “Did you think this would resonate with so many people?”

And then again last night, in a poem, “If See No End In Is,” Watching the Spring Festival, Frank Bidart:  (looking back at a life) “it is a vast resonating chamber…”

“Let your words resonate for the reader,” she said, by way of a suggestion.  Which is what, I suppose, started me on this little word journey.  If I needed to do it, I needed to know more about it. 

And this is what I’m taking with me:  Good writing sends out little waves of familiarity.  It connects readers to the past or lies waiting for them in the future. It echos through their hearts. It continues to be felt over and over again, like certain words.

I hope this post resonates with you.  There now, I’ve used it in a sentence.

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the dawning of a new day

Sunrise Miami Beach.  The dawning of a new day.img_1371 

On the front page of yesterday’s New York Times was the headline, 

From Books, New President Found Voice.”

In case you missed it, here are some of the highlights.  Michiko Kakutani wrote that Mr. Obama’s  “appreciation of the magic of language and his ardent love of reading” have shaped his “sense of who he is.”

She also commented on Mr. Obama’s storytelling ability as evidenced in Dreams From My Father, and I agree with this.  I listened to Mr. Obama read his autobiography on a recent car trip.  But my favorite example of his storytelling abilities is listening and watching him tell the story of the power of one voice (fired up and ready to go). 

Kakutani said that Mr. Obama took what she called “the magpie approach to reading,” which she defined as ruminating upon writers’ ideas and picking and choosing those that flesh out his vision of the world or open promising new avenues of inquiry.”

Then she issued, whether knowingly or unknowingly, the following warning to people who count their books at the end of the year, competing with others or themselves (50 for me for 2008):  Mr. Bush “tended to race through books in competitions with Karl Rove,” who apparently beat the President in 2006, by 110 books to 95.  Yikes.  We know who we are.

Here’s what she called “A Reading List that Shaped a President”: img_1356

  • The Bible
  • Parting the Waters by Taylor Branch
  • Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Ghandhi’s autobiography
  • Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin
  • The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing
  • Lincoln’s collected writings
  • Moby-Dick by Herman Melville
  • Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
  • Works of Reinhold Niebuhr
  • Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
  • Shakespeare’s tragedies.

Of these, I’ve read The Bible, The Golden Notebook, Song of Solomon, Gilead, and some of Shakespeare’s tragedies.

Kakutani concluded the article by making comparisons between Lincoln and Obama.  She quoted Fred Kaplan on Lincoln:  “He became what his language made him.”  Obama appears to be on the same track.  America and the world have a lot to look forward to.