Tag Archives: wordsmith

Find the Magic in Every Day Items


When we write, our text often references everyday items: a razor, an alarm clock, a shoe or, in the example below, an iron skillet. There isn’t much plainer than a frying pan of cast iron. Nonetheless, master wordsmith Thomas Harris uses the humble kitchen implement as a focal point in a brief passage. Observe what happens to an ordinary skillet when the writer finds the magic in it. From the novel Hannibal by Thomas Harris:

Do you have a black iron skillet? You are a southern mountain girl, I can’t imagine you would not. Put it on the kitchen table. Turn on the overhead lights.

Look into the skillet, Clarice. Lean over it and look down. If this were your mother’s skillet, and it well may be, it would hold among its molecules the vibrations of all the conversations ever held in its presence. All the exchanges, the petty irritations, the deadly revelations, the flat announcements of disaster, the grunts and poetry of love.

Sit down at the table, Clarice. Look into the skillet. If it is well cured, it’s a black pool, isn’t it? It’s like looking down a well. Your detailed reflection is not at the bottom, but you loom there, don’t you? The light behind you, there you are in a blackface, with a corona like your hair on fire.

We are elaborations of carbon, Clarice. You and the skillet and Daddy dead in the ground, cold as the skillet. It’s all still there. Listen.

            — Hannibal Lector in a letter to Clarice Starling

Totally Obsessed


If you are a car aficionado as I am, then you may have caught Motor Trend’s review of a new hand-built sports car:

But that’s not what makes the Pagani Huayra special. What makes it special is that it’s the singular product of one man’s singular passion. “We are a design and research company based on the Renaissance theory of art and science working together,” says Argentine-born Horacio Pagani. “That’s not our idea — it’s 500 years old. We take our inspiration from Leonardo da Vinci.” Pagani has thought through every single detail of this car — his one-on-one walkthrough of the Huayra’s technical highlights lasted more than three hours. He is truly autodom’s Renaissance man (he named his first son Leonardo): part designer, part engineer, mostly self-taught, totally obsessed.

The last line of the paragraph defines the creator. I think I am going to claim something similar to it as my motto and get it printed on a T-shirt.

“part artist, part wordsmith, mostly self-taught, totally obsessed”

As a writer, it’s the only way I can be.