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A Questioning Mind

While learning to be a better writer, it's important to read. Especially to read really great writing... although I have heard that you need to read crap too, just so you know what you don't want to do. And apparently also to make yourself feel a little better, that you're not as big a hack as you're afraid you might be. Heh. I want to say that was Edward Albee who said that.

At any rate, today I'm reading Bret Anthony Johnston's Corpus Christi: Stories, which is spectacularly great writing and causes me to feel incredibly humble and unworthy while at the same time, my enjoyment of such writing is simply limitless.

I came across chiaroscuro. Now, that's not anything I've even seen before, but I certainly did pick up from context that it's some specific form of art.

I had to look it up, of course.

First of all, it seems to be pronounced key-are-ah-SKYUR-o.

It's etymology is from the Italian chiaro for clear, light and oscuro for obscure, dark. Interesting. A dichotomy!

It means any of several things:

1 : pictorial representation in terms of light and shade without regard to color

2 a : the arrangement or treatment of light and dark parts in a pictorial work of art b : the interplay or contrast of dissimilar qualities (as of mood or character)

3 : a 16th century woodcut technique involving the use of several blocks to print different tones of the same color; also : a print made by this technique

4 : the interplay of light and shadow on or as if on a surface

5 : the quality of being veiled or partly in shadow

I think the use of this word in my book refers directly to the "print made by this technique" portion of the third definition since it is an actual thing (work of art) he was describing rather than a concept.

What makes it even more interesting and appropriate though, is that some of the concepts given as definition for this word fit the entire tone of this particular story. Which again makes me wonder how much time writers spend selecting words that so deftly and masterfully fit in any given work, bringing with them a host of connotation that imbues the words with shades and layers of meaning that enhance the tone and aura of the work so that it speaks to your heart as well as your mind.

Shout out to Merriam-Webster online. Besides Thesaurus.com, you're the second most useful Web site on the Internet.


( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
May. 15th, 2010 04:25 am (UTC)
I remember hearing that word in an art history class. The professor used it in the fourth and fifth senses. Though I seem to remember it meaning something like fogginess. Though the fogginess could just my memory itself... veiled and partly in shadow.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )



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