I have to admit that I love words like syzygy, synecdoche and metonymy. That’s one of the reasons I recently bought Rhetoric: Principles and Usage (1962, Richard E. Hughes and P. Albert Duhamel). The other (and better) reason is that I’m hoping to improve as a writer by broadening my horizons and addressing my weaknesses, rather than relying on native talent and hoping for the best. The book is a pleasant read, but, more importantly, it includes exercises. This morning I settled down at my typewriter to do one of the exercises, which I’ve decided to share on Windows of the Mind. The exercise was to describe the same place/event twice, first in an objective tone and then in an impressionistic tone. I enjoyed writing the two descriptions and being aware of how my style shifted — consciously and unconsciously — to accommodate the difference in tone.
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A bookshelf protruding from one wall divided the oblong room into two equal spaces, a living room which visitors entered directly and an office area on the far side. The television, mounted low on one wall, failed to dominate the living area — that honour was reserved for the old leather armchair. Nestled between the corner chimney and a low table covered with books, the armchair commanded a view over the entire room. From that worn seat, you could watch television in comfort or, with equal ease, peruse the bookshelves that flanked the thin flatscreen. With just a slight turn of the head, you would look into the office area to see a corner desk with a computer and yet another bookshelf; a second desk in the opposite corner filled out the perimeter of the room. Sunlight from a large window between the desks lit the office, while the dividing bookshelf kept the television in shadow. A digital piano and a pair of guitars sat under the window, and a potted plant basked in the sun on the windowsill. More plants were perched on top of the bookshelves, which also carried an assortment of trinkets, statuettes and candles. The only sound in the room was the barely audible hum from the two computers in the office, and a faint smell of incense lingered in the air.
* * *
Stepping into the room, one was immediately struck by how full it was while retaining a felling of spaciousness — packed without being cluttered. The bookshelves lining one wall were overflowing with neatly stacked books, as was the table next to the leather armchair, whose arms were worn from years of use. Plants peered back at you from every direction, perched high atop bookshelves and above desks, their vigorous green bursting into the room. The desks themselves — one in each of the far corners — were brimming over with papers, notebooks, and pens; between the desks, a window looked over a digital piano and a pair of guitars. The candles on the windowsill had melted in the sunlight, their strange curves echoing the shapes of the plants and the flowing wooden statues. The floor was unobstructed by furniture, though one of the bookshelves protruded into the room, dividing it neatly in two and protecting the television from the glare of the window. Despite the eclectic congeries of life and its reminders, the room was oddly still, filled only with a barely-heard hum from the computers and a lingering scent of incense in the air.