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Monday, June 16, 2008

Textual Inspiration #6

I think this description very early in the book is just brilliant. There have been a lot of special moments in this one thus far, but as we're learning our craft this is practically a tutorial on character description.

Houdini was a hero to little men, city boys, and Jews; Samuel Louis Klayman was all three. He was seventeen when the adventures began: bigmouthed, perhaps not quite as quick on his feet as he liked to imagine, and tending to be, like many optimists, a little excitable. He was not, in any conventional way, handsome. His face was an inverted triangle, brow large, chin pointed, with pouting lips and a blunt, quarrelsome nose. He slouched, and wore clothes badly: he always looked as though he had just been jumped for his lunch money. He went forward each morning with the hairless cheek of innocence itself, but by noon a clean shave was no more than a memory, a hoboish penumbra on the jaw not quite sufficient to make him look tough. He thought of himself as ugly, but this was because he had never seen his face in repose. He had delivered the
Eagle for most of 1931 in order to afford a set of dumbbells, which he had hefted every morning for the next eight years until his arms, chest, and shoulders were ropy and strong; polio had left him with the legs of a delicate boy . He stood, in his socks, five feet five inches tall. Like all of his friends, he considered it a compliment when somebody called him a wiseass.

- From The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon

5 comments:

stu said...

It certainly creates a very vivid picture.

Sven said...

"a hoboish penumbra"?! Chabon is just showing off at that point.

Randika said...

The loveliest bit for me: "but this was because he had never seen his face in repose." Why it works? No special words, just an elegant thought that holds a lot of truth. Yummy words that are clear and strong.

Stephanie said...

I love the phrase he always looked as though he had just been jumped for his lunch money.

Because I can totally picture that, and it implies so much more than the image.

me said...

Sigh. I have never been able to get through that book. I don't know why. I wonder if it's because I almost feel like it has been recommended to me by so many people and if I don't like it I'll feel bad.