I know, I promised haughty opinions and pretentious analyses. Don't worry, I'm about halfway through The Forever War, so it shouldn't be too much longer before you see all that goodness posted all up in here. I need to finish reading it by September 29 or 30, because I want to start a new book before my beach vacation in October. Something a little less...heavy.
To tide you over, here is a story about my favorite literary term:
le mot juste: the right word.
I became fascinated with this expression my sophomore year of college, in a class called "The Lost Generation." We studied the expatriates: people like Sylvia Beach, who helped make salons famous, but we also looked at the authors who were writing from the Left Bank of Paris -- Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald...and most importantly, Ernest Hemingway.
My professor, a Hemingway scholar, would use the term le mot juste at least once a class. "Hemingway was always searching for le mot juste," he'd say.
"He was never satisfied until he found le mot juste."
"Without le mot juste, you can completely miss the meaning, wrong the tone, or smother the attitude of a sentence!"
"Did you know Hemingway wouldn't touch a drop of alcohol while he was writing, because he knew it would distract him from finding le mot juste?"
The guy had an (admirable) obsession.
I took all of his stories to heart. Even if it seemed the Hemingway anecdotes were more tall tale than truth, that class really taught me something about writing. "Advanced Composition" and The Sense of Structure only nurtured the seed that was planted during my hours spent in "The Lost Generation."
Now, whenever I write, I painstakingly read back every sentence, edit them one at a time, to make sure my meaning is clear and accurate. (See, accurate. I went back and forth for 3 minutes on that. I almost used genuine there, but I wanted le mot juste -- the right word. And the meaning does change, doesn't it? Even if it's just in what you feel when you see it.) That is why I'm so passionate about the written word. In my own search for le mot juste, I am finding out so much more about me.
Sidebar: Here's something else kind of fun. I found this URL while looking up things to include in this mot juste post: http://www.etymonline.com