Saying/Breathing/etc, was Re: Checking in

minnow at minnow at
Sun Jan 25 07:41:34 EST 2004

lizzie wrote

>on writers who always have someone breathe this or say this dryly:
>I find that I have to cut out about half the references to facial movements in
>whatever I write, as otherwise I end up with an overabundance of people with
>facial tics.  I tend to have lots of raised eyebrows and rolled eyes and
>blinking and biiig eyes and so on and so forth, which is because I very much
>talk with my facial movements (the way that some people talk with their
>hands).  So do you think that perhaps Arthur Ransome usually said things in a
>dead-pan fashion?

I dunno.  His account in his autobiography of walking across no-man's-land
from the White Russian trenches to the Red Russian ones during the
Revolution carrying a typewriter in one hand and a small suitcase in the
other (which I haven't read for years so I may have details wrong) struck
me as being a pretty dead-pan description of taking a hair-raising risk.
In the rest of the book I think he sometimes did give an impression of
getting agitated over things, though.  Maybe he worked hard at showing
Proper British Sang-Froid, and wrote his children as being very stiff about
the upper lip for that reason?

obDWJ, he seems to have got very upset about her and the rest of the nasty
little slum-child evacuees disturbing him when he was writing in his
houseboat in the Lake District.  I don't know whether that is in one of her
childhood-reminiscence essays, but he was really rather beastly to their
mothers, and then went away again leaving a bad taste in everyone's mouths.
So not dead-pan on that occasion at least.

>Yeah. . . because I've never met anybody else who uses their face as much as I
>do.  The only people who come close are anime characters.

There's a lovely description somewhere in Sayers' *Busman's Honeymoon*,
which says that a mere portrait of the Dowager Duchess of Denver is not
adequate and only a very rapidly-moving picture could convey her quality.


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